If you experience an emergency on the water, call for help immediately. Time is critical on the water and minutes lost could equate to lives lost at the end of the day, according to the Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue.
As British Columbians take to the water this summer, RCMSAR reminds you to tune your VHF marine radio to Channel 16 or use your cell phone and call *16 or #727 – or simply dial 9-1-1 – in an emergency.
When faced with a marine emergency, RCMSAR volunteers go on high alert. Hearing “Pan-Pan” or “Mayday” means someone’s life is in danger and needs assistance urgently. The Joint Rescue Coordination Centre assigns your call to the nearest Coast Guard Station or local RCMSAR station.
Training year-round, RCMSAR volunteers are on-call 24 hours a day, serving communities across Vancouver Island, the north coast and Haida Gwaii, along the Sunshine Coast, the Lower Mainland, and inland waters of the Shuswap.
Last year, more than 900 RCMSAR volunteers from 31 local marine rescue stations responded to 515 calls for help on the water, assisting and saving 455 people’s lives, meeting increased calls for help as more people take to the water during the pandemic.
Notable missions last summer include the dramatic rescue of 17 wayward paddleboarders who were drawn dangerously toward the shipping channel beneath the Lions Gate Bridge. RCMSAR volunteers near Nanaimo helped rescue a family with a two-and-a-half-year-old who were stranded on a small island after their boat was destroyed in rough seas. Their volunteers also kept boaters at bay clearing the BC Wildfire Service’s access to water on Shuswap Lake during last summer’s wildfires.
A notable, less known, rescue also occurred on the North Coast near Hartley Bay. RCMSAR Station 70 volunteers responded to a vessel on fire and persons in the water in the early hours one-night last July. Two of their crews arrived on the scene, extinguished the fire before it reached the shore and searched for survivors. Two survivors were transported to shore to attending nurses before the vessel sank; two lives unfortunately were lost.
RCMSAR volunteers have experienced it all: that proud feeling of saving lives on the water and the immense weight of loss for those who did not make it. Still, the call to serve British Columbians endures.
Yet, saving lives on the water is impossible without the support from the communities they serve.
RCMSAR receives funding from the federal and provincial governments however, these amounts do not meet their total financial needs, nor are they guaranteed each year. Volunteers must fundraise for their own life-saving equipment, vessels and operational costs to keep local stations open. Support from community members like you provide critical training and equipment needed to save lives – and stay safe while doing it.
Visit www.rcmsar.com/savelives to learn more, make a charitable donation or sign up to receive alerts on rescue missions, boating safety tips and support initiatives like their upcoming 50/50 online raffle.
Established in 1978, the Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue is a registered charity that saves lives on the water supporting the Canadian Coast Guard, the Canadian Armed Forces, the Province, and local communities when needed. An advocate for Safe Boating Awareness Week (May 21 to 27), RCMSAR reminds you to be prepared before going out on the water:
- Take a boating course
- Wear a lifejacket
- Boat sober
- Check safety equipment onboard
- Know the area you visit (including commercial traffic zones and cell phone dead zones)
- Have a sail plan; and
- Call for help immediately