E-bikes a game changer for search and rescue operations in Central Okanagan | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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E-bikes a game changer for search and rescue operations in Central Okanagan

Image Credit: FACEBOOK/Central Okanagan Search and Rescue

The addition of e-bikes on search and rescue missions has been a game changer for the volunteers on the Central Okanagan Search and Rescue team.

The team started using the bikes for both urban and wilderness rescues almost four years ago.

They're the first search and rescue team in the country to use an e-bike team and are now an example for other groups in the province and around the world due to the increased efficiency the bikes provide in both urban and wilderness settings. 

“We are a bit of a cookie cutter and others have since taken what we’ve done and applied it to their teams,” Central Okanagan Search and Rescue president Brad Trites said. “There has been a lot of interest in it.”

READ MORE: Petition launched against Okanagan Rail Trail ebike ban

The e-bike team is made up of ten riders equipped with trauma kits that can reach a subject more quickly and easily to provide immediate first aid care while the rest of the team figures out a means of extracting the subject.

“They give us the ability to get to subjects quicker on trail systems around here,” Trites said. “We have single-track mountain bike and hiking trails we can’t access with quads."

Members of the e-bike team assisted in a search for a missing boy in Mission this week. 

READ MORE: Lost 11-year-old boy located by Central Okanagan Search and Rescue

Trite said the bikes are used for urban searches as well because they cover ground quickly and with less human energy required than a regular pedal bike.

“Our team covers a 5,000 square kilometre area and we have a lot of diversity in the types of tasks we encounter,” he said. “Sometimes we rescue dementia patients or kids in urban areas. Other search and rescue operations are in done in the wilderness.”

The team conducted 107 tasks last year and have done 31 tasks this year to date, with seven carried out in the past nine days.

“Kelowna has done a good job of building bike lanes and that plays out well for us,” he said. “There is a well-established mountain bike trail system throughout the Okanagan valley. The bikes dramatically improve our ability to provide necessary care.”

Trites has been with the 60 member team for five years. Search and Rescue teams across the country are made up entirely of volunteers.

“We all have day jobs and are on call 24/7,” he said. “Things are getting busy right now.”

When asked how the team affords the expensive bikes, Trites said the community provides a lot of support to help with all life-saving purchases.

The Central Okanagan Search and Rescue has been providing Kelowna and the surrounding area with highly trained volunteers since 1954.

The team’s training covers technical skills such as advanced first aid, high-angle rope rescue, wilderness and urban ground search, helicopter rescue and swift water rescue.

To donate to Central Okanagan Search and Rescue click here.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Shannon Ainslie or call 250-819-6089 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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