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

Ridge chamber announces finalists for best-in-business awards

Winners will be announced at annual gala in February.

Four ‘neglected’ dogs surrendered to SPCA by Maple Ridge backyard breeder

Shepherd-breed dogs were living in ‘deplorable conditions.’

Wires down along 112th Avenue in Maple Ridge

There are 244 customers without power in the area

Ridge RCMP arrest man who tried to escape on skateboard

Dustin William Randall Evans, 30, was wanted on outstanding warrants.

‘Not a decision I came to lightly:’ Scheer to resign as Conservative leader

Decision comes after weeks of Conservative infighting following the October election

Haney junior boys win Carney basketball tourney

Maple Ridge team beats Abbotsford Christian 53-49 in the final

Sawatsky undefeated in post-season play

Dominant effort in Haney Masters Curling

‘British Columbians are paying too much’: Eby directs ICBC to delay rate application

Attorney General David Eby calls for delay in order to see how two reforms play out

VIDEO: Octopus, bald eagle battle after bird ‘bites off more than it can chew’ in B.C. waters

B.C. crew films fight between the two feisty animals in Quatsino off north Vancouver Island

Couple who bought $120k banana duct-taped to wall say artwork will be ‘iconic’

Pair compared it to Warhol’s ‘Campbell’s Soup Cans,’ which was initially ‘met with mockery’

Race to replace Andrew Scheer could be a crowded one

Many familiar faces, such as Maxime Bernier, Jason Kenney, Doug Ford and Kevin O’Leary, have said no

National cold case hunters take on search for missing man last seen in B.C.

Kristofer Couture’s car was found at Chilliwack trailhead in January but there’s been no sign since

Most Read