Vancouver Island industry and adventurers can benefit from a new search and rescue base located in Campbell River.
Technical Evacuation Advanced Aero Medical (TEAAM) has its newest location in the city. It’s one of four bases in the province including Prince George, Fort St. John and Squamish – its home base.
The program is unique in Canada, according to the president and co-founder, Miles Randall. The program is a non-profit, medically directed rescue program and is similar to programs in Switzerland and New Zealand.
Randall says they started the program after experiencing gaps in Canada’s rescue system.
“We started the program back in 2017 after the loss of a friend in 2014,” said Randall. “We responded as traditional ambulance paramedics to a cardiac arrest in the backcountry which turned out to be our station chief, our search and rescue team leader and friend of 20 years.
“Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to go up the trail to get to his side and were required to have the patient brought to us. He didn’t survive the event.”
He adds another incident about four months later in Squamish saw them approach the situation differently, leading to the rescue of a hypothermic girl in cardiac arrest in the backcountry.
The program is membership-based and is a combination of memberships and insurance, according to Randall. He says they base it on Switzerland’s Air Zermatt model.
“We don’t have the same population base in Canada,” said Randall. “For us, if you’re a worker it’s $100 per year for a membership and $40 per year for insurance. That covers the cost of membership and the cost of rescue as well.”
Funding for the program mostly comes from industry. Randall adds they also received government funding and support from Campbell River council.
Helicopters and other aircraft are provided by various organizations across the province. Randall says in Campbell River they use VIH Helicopters and 49 North Helicopters.
He adds Campbell River was always on the radar, especially after the loss of a rescue base a number of years ago.
“There was a helicopter company in Campbell River that was doing an excellent job of rescue for the logging sector,” said Randall. “Unfortunately, there was a tragic accident when the owner of the company died in a helicopter crash.
“The company folded and they no longer provide that service. Some friends of his that are in the logging sector reached out to us and asked us to fill the void that was left.”
With the organization now up and running, Randall says he hopes to collaborate with other search and rescue organizations in the area and how they can help the community.
He adds more communities have been reaching out for bases, and they now have a seven-base plan for the organization.
More information and donation opportunities can be found on the TEAAM website.