British Columbia Search and Rescue Association

The BC Search and Rescue Association (BCSARA) represents all 80 of the volunteer Ground Search and Rescue (GSAR) groups and the 2,500 GSAR volunteers who respond to over 1,600 incidents a year in the Province of BC. With a board consisting of 12 volunteer regional directors and agency representatives the association provides advice to government, develops solutions to issues, accesses funding, provides health and safety support, educates the general public on outdoor safety and acts as a common link to information and resources for Search and Rescue practitioners across British Columbia.

Our Impact Why We Exist

Each year over 2,000 citizens and visitors to our beautiful province require Search and Rescue services. From a hiker lost in the backcountry, a young child wandering off from their parents, a boater flipping over and stranded in fast moving water, to a senior with demetia who walks away from caregivers; they all need help. British Columbia has 944,000 square kilometres of very diverse terrain with many hazards, requiring a wide range of Search and Rescue techniques, equipment, and training. To effectively provide Search and Rescue services local community based volunteer groups were organized, many during the 1950s and 60s. With the support of the B.C. government and BCSARA the Search an Rescue service in B.C. continues to evolve to meet the demands of increasing number of incidents and the complex nature of many such responses.  

Swiftwater RescueOur Story What We Do

BCSARA was formed in 2003, adding the ability to raise funds to the former Provincial Search and Rescue Advisory Committee which was established in 1989. Our volunteer board focuses their energy towards:

1. Providing prevention programs and awareness of ground and inland water search and rescue information to the public to reduce the number and severity of incidents;

2. Providing health and safety support and programs to Ground Search and Rescue Groups and volunteers recognised by the Province of British Columbia;

3. Raising, administering and distributing funds and gifts that support training, provide equipment, and reduce demands on Ground Search and Rescue volunteers to fund raise;

4. Providing advice to the provincial government on all matters concerning Ground Search and Rescue in B.C.;

5. liaising and interacting with other Search and Rescue organizations in B.C., nationally, and in other countries; 

AdventureSmart presenters and GSAR volunteersOur Programs How We Do It

BCSARA provides funding to GSAR Groups for training, equipment, and insurance; using grants from gaming, the provincial government and other sources. GSAR Groups determine their priorities for funding each year based on requirements for new and re-certifications and replacing equipment. BCSARA also provides funding to the Justice Institute of British Columbia (JIBC) to deliver core training such as Search Management.

BCSARA funds AdventureSmart, a SAR prevention program designed and developed in B.C. and now recognized nationally. Volunteer presenters and seasonal teams provide awareness sessions to school age children and adults on how to stay safe while enjoying the outdoors.

The BCSARA Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) program is a peer based group of volunteers trained to provide sessions to GSAR volunteers on the impacts of stress inducing incidents and how to mitigate the effects. They also provide interventions following such events on request. BCSARA funds training and resources for the peers.

The Joint Search and Rescue Health and Safety Committee, co-chaired by BCSARA and Emergency Management British Columbia (EMBC), supports the GSAR Groups and volunteers by providing guidelines covering many aspects of SAR response. The Committee also reviews incidents where GSAR volunteers could have been, or were, injuried and provides information on how future incidents can be mitigated.

BCSARA provides funding towards regional and provincial meetings as forums to exchange information and gather feedback on best practices and challenges. The Board also provides facilitators for formal reviews of responses to help further evolve the GSAR service. 

As part of the Search and Rescue Volunteer Memorial committee BCSARA worked closely with air and marine volunteer organization to establish a memorial on the grounds of the Parliament Buildings in Victoria. The memorial is close to ones for Police, Fire, and Ambulance members; 'in memory of those who lost their lives in the line of duty and to reconize all that serve.'

Helicopter Rescue TeamWhat You Can Do

All Ground Search and Rescue groups in British Columbia manage the cost of training and responding through a mixture of funding sources; provincial grants, reimbursement of respone expenses, local fund raising, and in-kind donations. BCSARA supports the groups and volunteers through accessing grants as well, and conducting provincial intiatives that benefit all. There are a number of ways that members of the public can assist:

1. assist a local GSAR group by becoming a member, there are a lot of roles other than responding such as managing finances and equipment that can be very helpful

2. donate funds direct to a local GSAR group, a list of groups and their contacts are available at

3. donate funds to the British Columbia Search and Rescue Association, which will go to benefit all GSAR groups in the province. Donations can be made directly, for more information go to , or through the Victoria Foundation. 

Note that none of the GSAR groups, nor BCSARA, solicit funds by phone; if you receive such as call please report it as per


Chris Kelly
Charitable Number: 862999422RR0001

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Finance & Governance

Annual Operating Budget: 
$ 520,000