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Cell phones partially to blame for steady rise in B.C. backcountry rescues

Image Credit: ADOBE STOCK
September 08, 2017 - 2:30 PM

More Interior residents are getting lost in the woods because they're relying on their cell phones.

The British Columbia Search and Rescue Association released a graph this week that, despite more efforts made at education, shows a steady rise in the number of B.C. rescues required year to year.

The graph goes back to the early 1990’s when there were between 400 and 600 SAR volunteer deployments in B.C. The number rose to around 700 per year by end of the century.

Since then, the number of rescues required in the B.C. backcountry has reached more than 1,600.

AdventureSmart Provincial Coordinator Sandra Riches admits it’s disappointing.

“It’s somewhat surprising and frustrating,” she says. “We’ve been educating British Columbians for up to 14 years. I know we are making a difference but I would love to see a decrease in those numbers.”

Riches says a growing population and easier access to the backcountry have contributed to the increase, but says our love affair with our cell phones is getting more and more people in trouble.

“They definitely are getting way too reliant on those phones,” she says. “Most of us can’t live without them. People are now relying on them as their communication device, their navigation device and their light source.”

Image Credit: adventuresmart.ca

AdventureSmart educates the public in part by setting up at popular trail heads and talking to people. RIches says a lot of people “aren't doing what they need to do” and it’s getting them in trouble.

“People come up with only their phone and maybe a bottle of water,” she says. “They need to think of the 'what if's' and bring a small pack with essentials."

More reliance on cell phones is also creating an impression on social media that venturing into the backcountry is easy. Who doesn't want a selfie from the top of a mountain?

“(Social media) makes it look enticing, but a picture doesn’t show what it took for that person to get to that beautiful location," she says. "Did they leave a trip plan? What is their level of physical fitness and their experience?

"I think it's going to take people making solid, sound decisions for themselves (to lower the number of rescues)."

AdventureSmart offers a range of free programs to help groups prepare for a range of outdoor activities from boating to snowshoeing. Visit their website for more information.


To contact a reporter for this story, email Adam Proskiw or call 250-718-0428 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2017
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