Search and rescue volunteers

With our diverse, rugged geography and extensive outdoor recreational opportunities, B.C. has the most recorded search and rescue incidents in Canada.

The province assists with the coordination of dispatch when contacted by a requesting agency; we aren't the onsite commander for search and rescue operations. We provide support to search and rescue through:

  • expense reimbursement to support deployment
  • developing support policy
  • facilitating incident debriefs, and
  • providing input into training standards

What volunteers do

Volunteers may be called upon to assist police in searching for lost recreationalists or to help in accessing and transporting injured people if specialized skills or equipment are needed. They also support local communities during emergencies by helping distribute information during evacuations and other response activities.

How to join

The B.C. government doesn't directly recruit volunteers. Volunteers are recruited and organized in groups at a community level. The BC Search and Rescue Association (BCSARA) exists to represent these volunteer groups in B.C. 

To become a search and rescue volunteer:

  1. Find your local search and rescue group.
  2. Speak directly with them to find out if they are recruiting and what skill sets they require.


The Justice Institute of BC (JIBC) partners with EMBC, the RCMP and the BCSARA to deliver search and rescue training to volunteers. The Ground Search and Rescue Qualifications Matrix (PDF, 1.1MB) informs what courses volunteers should pursue to be involved in ground search and rescue.

Volunteer resources

For convenience, we've provided useful forms and guidance materials that SAR volunteers may require.​

General — for all public safety lifeline volunteers 


Volunteer safety and code of conduct

We are committed to the safety of all public safety lifeline volunteers. 

Code of conduct 

Volunteers have a high level of responsibility and accountability while performing their duties. The code of conduct documents outline the expectations and responsibilities of each registered volunteer, and contain the process for a breach of the Code of Conduct.

Workers compensation coverage

Liability coverage

Search and rescue specific 


Search and rescue policy and safety information

The Search and Rescue policy outlines what responses are allowable under an EMBC task number, including which responsible agencies and applicable circumstances, are authorized to request the services of GSAR.

Safety information

Critical incident stress management

GSAR volunteers are exposed to events that have the potential to create a significant and strong physiological response. Critical incident stress is a common reaction to abnormal events. The Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) program delivers a variety of services to help search and rescue volunteers deal with critical incident stress.

Civil Air Search and Rescue Association (CASARA) provides reimbursement to members for aircraft operating expenses and other reasonable expenses that volunteers may incur.


Ground search and rescue (GSAR) winter response

The Winter Response policy is in place to ensure the safety of GSAR responders while operating in a winter environment terrain that has the potential for avalanche risk.

When requested, GSAR volunteers may conduct body recoveries on behalf of the BC Coroners Service. This policy outlines the conditions and responsibilities of the volunteers while responding to such a request.

Class 'D' Helicopter Rescue. Contact SAR specialists for application.

 The search and rescue night vision imaging systems is a pilot project. This is the supporting policy.