Aug. 24, 2019 — Nechako Valley Search and Rescue hosted a B.C. tracking association course over the weekend. Members are shown analysing a foot print as part of the introductory course called Track Aware which was guided by Chris Mushumanski. SAR members who already have some track aware courses, were taking the Tracker course which is more advanced. There were trained by Jeni Christie, president of B.C. tracking association. “In B.C. for search, tracking is a really important skill used on many searches, especially here in the north. Having skilled trackers is really essential in reducing the area you are going to search, finding that subject faster, getting a direction of travel from where they were last seen,” Mushumanski said. (Aman Parhar photo)

Mitigating stress while being a search and rescue volunteer

The CISM program helps members dealing with stress, says SAR volunteer

When news came that there was a 4-year old missing in Mackenzie, many Search and rescue teams from across northern B.C. were called to assist in the search. Late Sunday on Aug. 18, George was found by search efforts that saw hundreds of people from the community aid search and rescue teams.

READ MORE: UPDATE: Search crews find 4-year-old boy who went missing near Mackenzie

Imagine if you were a SAR volunteer and were called on-scene to look for a 4-year old boy.

Such searches may cause stress to SAR volunteers said Chris Mushumanski, search manager with Nechako Valley Search and Rescue. And to mitigate and deal with that stress, Nechako Valley search and rescue activated their Critical Incident Stress Program (CISM).

CISM is activated when members conduct searches that could have an emotional impact on their pscyhe. Once CISM is activated, team members get together and speak about their experiences, but also actively look out for each other. Partners of NVSAR members are also notified and asked to observe their emotional well-being.

Wes Smith, a Nechako Valley SAR member was called to help in the search for George. He has a 4-year old of his own and said there was an immediate emotional connection he felt with George’s family.

“I think the shock of it all and the connection to my 4-year old were dealt by my team members. They said right off the bat, that I could step away and not be involved. And to know that, was comforting,” he said.

CISM program is really helpful in mitigating stress, he said.

“I am really glad we have it because it takes that internal piece which could be stress and that you may easily dismiss, and brings its outside. I know what to watch for now physically and mentally. And with family members and spouses being involved, they are told what to watch for, which helps a lot as family members usually can see if something is not right before you realize it,” Smith added.

Mushumanski said an important aspect of being a SAR volunteer is that they have the right to refuse taking a task that could affect them adversely.

Smith said that once he was in Mackenzie all the thoughts he had about his four-year old faded away and he focused on the task at hand.

“How can I help and what is my job here right now was what I was thinking. So that moved to the forefront,” he said.

Nechako Valley SAR members looked for George from 6 am until 6 pm on Aug. 18 but had not found the boy. Smith said as a team they decided to leave the scene as there was another SAR group who were scheduled to look for George from that time on wards. The four-year old was found shortly after.

Another SAR volunteer on the scene Eric Wallace said, “We got the news when we were on our way back and suddenly I felt the stress leave my body. My stomach was feeling a little uneasy as I was having a physical reaction to the stress. But as soon as we heard he was found, I was much more at ease.”

Wallace found the CISM program to be helpful as well. He said the fact that you can speak about the day and decompress with your team members, really helps with stressful searches.

Meanwhile, another search that involved a snowmobile accident a few years ago had SAR members activate the CISM program.

Smith said the incident involved one injured person and a deceased person.

“That was new to me. That was stressful in a different way than searching for a 4-year old. One had a bit more intensity and immediacy to it. Whereas the other was more of an internal stress of whether I can handle it, as I had never dealt with that situation before,” he said.

SAR volunteers provide a lot of support in search activities. The CISM program has been built to aid these volunteers to be able to recognize emotional stressors, Smith said.

Mushumanski said the CISM program is a way for the team to manage each other and understand what they can do to help one another return to normalcy.


Aman Parhar
Editor, Vanderhoof Omineca Express

aman.parhar@ominecaexpress.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Summerland takes the 100 Radon Test Kit Challenge

Take on Radon and the Summerland Healthy Community Initiative are partnering on the campaign.

Vees take 6-3 win against rival Salmon Arm Silverbacks

Vees’ Jay O’Brien and Lukas Sillinger both had multiple-point games.

Interior Health issues warning about opioid-laced stimulants causing recent overdoses

Interior Health is urging residents using or considering using drugs to reconsider… Continue reading

Science Matters: Forming bonds in times of crisis

The climate and ecological crises touch each of us to varying degrees.… Continue reading

Give back this holiday season with SOWINS Share the Spirit campaign

Help women and children fleeing or living with abuse have a happy holiday

VIDEO: B.C. couple creates three-storey ‘doggie mansion’ for their five pups

Group of seven, who Kylee Ryan has dubbed as the ‘wandering paws,’ have a neat setup in Jade City

MacKinnon powers Avs to 5-4 OT win over Canucks

Vancouver battled back late to pick up single point

Port Alberni mom takes school district to court over Indigenous smudging, prayer in class

Candice Servatius, who is an evangelical Christian, is suing School District 70

Family of B.C. man killed in hit-and-run plead for tips, one year later

Cameron Kerr’s family says the driver and passengers tried to cover their tracks

Chilliwack family’s dog missing after using online pet-sitting service

Frankie the pit bull bolted and hit by a car shortly after drop off through Rover.com

B.C. wildlife experts urge hunters to switch ammo to stop lead poisoning in birds

OWL, in Delta, is currently treating two eagles for lead poisoning

B.C. First Nations drop out of court challenge, sign deals with Trans Mountain

Upper Nicola Band says deal represents a ‘significant step forward’

Okanagan philanthropists treated to moving speech on National Philanthropy Day

David Roche shared his message to the Association of Fundraising Professionals and non-profits

Most Read