Public Safety Lifeline Volunteer Award Winners 2018

a group shot of the winners of the 2018 Public Safety Lifeline Volunteer awards

Pictured above (L-R): Dave Merritt (Search and Rescue), Anna Spray (Andrew Spray’s Daughter, winner of the Lifetime Achievement), Larry Joe (Emergency Radio Communications), Brian Brinkhurst (Road Rescue), Nicole and Nick Tarasiuk (husband and daughter of Babs Tarasiuk, winner of PepAir), Carolynne Miller (Emergency Social services), Honourable Minister Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General and Parliamentary Secretary for Emergency Preparedness, Jennifer Rice.

Carolynne Miller - Emergency Social Services

Volunteering and giving back was encouraged and demonstrated by Carolynne's family. She grew up in Hastings East, Vancouver, graduating from Britannia Secondary, receiving her Bachelor of Education from UBC and her Master of Education in Teaching from Gonzaga. As an educator, she taught in Abbotsford, Whitehorse, Melbourne and Kamloops. During her 35 years in the classroom, Carolynne taught Grades K-12, retiring from Sa-Hali Secondary in 1998. She has coached many school teams, worked on committees and served as Staff Rep. She has had the honour to be part of the Field Hockey Committee leading up to and working during the 1993 Canada Games and 2011 Western Canada Summer Games held in Kamloops. In  her retirement years, Carolynne has kept up with education through the Retired Teachers Association where she serves as a back up to the Recording Secretary.

The 2003 Fire Season introduced Carolynne to ESS.  After that fire season, she joined the Kamloops ESS team. In 2009, Kamloops hosted evacuees from Lillooet interface fires. During that time, she moved from Registration and Referrals to the Documentation Section and is now Documentation Chief.  Along with another member of Kamloops ESS, Carolynne developed and presented two Documentation Workshops. 

Carolynne's volunteer work continues with PEO Sisterhood, an organization promoting educational opportunities for women. A PEO Chapter in Vancouver assisted her while at UBC, and now she has the opportunity to give back. She is a member of Adah Chapter, Order of the Eastern Star, in charge of Cancer Dressings and Secretary of St. Peter’s, a little Anglican heritage church in Monte Creek. Carolynne has been President of two Strata Councils, on the Board at the Kamloops Golf Club and  BC President of Delta Kappa Gamma (Women Educators) in 1991-93

Brian Brinkhurst -  Road Rescue

Brian was born and raised in Smithers, BC. Brian moved to Burns Lake to work with Ministry of Forests in 1991 and currently works at the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development as a Natural Resource Officer. Brian started working with the Burns Lake Fire Department in 1992 at the age of 23. He was active in the local Search and Rescue for about five years and became Captain in the fire department in 1999. The Burns Lake Fire Department is a volunteer paid-on-call fire department and fluctuates between 24 and 32 members. Almost a third of all responses at the fire department are MVI related.

Brian is currently the President of the Burns Lake Fire Training Society and is working on developing training grounds north of Burns Lake, with a live burn building due to arrive this spring. They also plan on developing an auto extrication training environment in the next year, with hopes of hosting regional auto extrication training. Brian has been a dedicated member of the fire department and really cherishes the environment and the crew he gets to work with.

Dave Merritt - Search and Rescue

In 1991, Dave Merritt started with Prince George Search and Rescue as the youngest team member at the time. Over the next 27 years, he has grown and developed as a SAR volunteer, and has filled many roles within his local team as well at various committee at the provincial level. It has been during this time that he developed his love of teaching, and mentoring of new volunteer team members.

Dave has taken on a variety of training roles both within the SAR teams he has been a part of, as well as within in the province. Since 1998, Dave has been teaching the SAR community in many different disciplines and does so because he enjoys to give back to this dedicated community of driven and passionate volunteers.

Dave has run large training exercises, including rope rescue weekend workshops to winter response training. He has also volunteered throughout the province delivering training for programs such as Rope Rescue and Ground Search Team Leader.  Anytime he is training members, he strives to ensure that every member is ready to go when they are called upon, and takes great pride when his trainees have that “AH HA” moment - knowing that he has done his job and done it well. He takes training of all members very seriously and lives by the words of one of his mentors - “I am training you to not just replace me, but to be better than I am”.   

Dave’s desire to improve the rescue capabilities in Northern BC has been one of the other driving forces in the work that he has done. Dave has worked hard to improve winter response capabilities and skill sets within his own team.  He has mentored many people in proper traveling techniques in avalanche terrain and how best to respond in a safe manner. This has lead to the creation of a Winter Response Team of motorized and non- motorized travel methods within PGSAR, where he lead the development of a self assessment process that rates peoples’ ability for travel in terrain and their comfort level with the mode of travel. 

He was also instrumental in the development in PGSAR’s Class D Fixed Line program. This project took over 2 years of work and dedication to complete. In the end, PGSAR became one of 12 teams in the province with this type of rescue capability, with 10 fully trained team members ready to provide support in a time of need. 

Dave has demonstrated great leadership through many activities and projects that he has been a part of. He has been a SAR manager with PGSAR for 20 years leading teams through some of its most challenging searches and rescues in difficult terrain – and leading searches with up to 250 volunteers.     

As a dedicated volunteer of 20 years with BC Cave Rescue, he has helped build a strong bond between PGSAR and BC Cave Rescue. This bond was strengthened in 2010 when Dave was called upon to be the SAR Manager tasked with running a large-scale cave rescue operation east of Prince George. This task brought together Canadian Forces 442 Squadron SAR technicians along with 60 volunteers (from PGSAR and BC Cave Rescue) in an all-night rescue of an injured local caver.

As Dave continues to work on many projects, his passion for SAR continues to grow. His continued commitment is driven by the desire to ensure his community and the province of BC has a strong and viable search and rescue program that is relevant and sustainable for generations to come.   

Bibiane (Babs) Tarasiuk - PEPAir

For over 20 years, Babs was a dedicated volunteer with PEPAir. Babs began volunteering in the Southwest Zone and in 2009, Babs and her husband, Nick, moved to Kelowna, were they immediately joined the Kelowna PEPAir group. Babs rarely missed a training session, either in her supporting role or as an instructor. Babs spent countless hours making sure accurate records were maintained and all administrative duties were filled. It was Babs’ hard work and dedication that kept Kelowna as one of the top areas in the province.

Babs was like the mother figure of the Kelowna group, and she wore it proudly. During every major search, Babs made sure all PEPAir members were taken care of, ensuring that food was available, making sure the crews ate, making sure crews had a place to stay, and making sure the crews forms and expense claims were completed correctly. When crews from other areas and zones were required, Babs made sure everyone felt welcome and would go out of her way to make sure they had everything they needed. It did not matter if the individual was part of PEPAir, the Military or a member of the public.

During SAR GDTK this past June, Babs, while undergoing therapy for cancer, would always find some way to arrive at search headquarters to make sure the administrative side of the search was being completed.
Babs was a true definition of a volunteer, she was never there for the praise or reward. She worked hard in the background and would be best described as the “unsung hero” of the Kelowna group.

After several years of battling cancer, Babs passed away on November 27, 2017. Babs remained an active member with PEPAir until November 15, 2017.

Larry Joe - Radio Communications

In 1987, Larry was already a ham radio hobbyist for about 12 years. The Edmonton tornado had just happened and Larry discovered Ed Gorse in the Red Cross trailer busily two-finger typing information from a stack of papers.  Larry, who could type 60 WPM, took over and made short order of the paperwork. Ed explained that the Request and Inquiry forms were inquiries from concerned Victorians requesting information on the welfare of their Edmonton family members. These messages were sent by packet radio (not voice) and soon replies were being received from the Edmonton Red Cross. Larry was hooked.

In 1988 Larry VARPA with Ed Gorse, Paul Johnson and Glenn Terrell (Rogers Cable CEO) saw an opportunity to spread the new technology and formed the Victoria Amateur Radio Packet Association. With four members, it was easy to have a monthly meeting at the local Tim Hortons. As the membership grew, the meetings moved to the Rogers Cable’s lunch room and the club was also able to use the Rogers Cable’s towers in town and on Saltspring Island for better packet radio area coverage.    

In the early 1990s, packet radio was just coming out. There was a lot of interest because in those days, there was no internet or internet over radio waves.When sending a message it would be to “All Victoria”, “All BC”, “All Canada” or, the ultimate, “All” which went world-wide. Larry was one of the first people to set up a bulletin board for Victoria. When Port Alberni heard Larry’s signal, they wanted to be set up as a forwarding partner so Larry became a systems operator. The interest soon gained interest and training was implemented to System Operators (SysOps) and users of these automated bulletin boards.

Membership fees were used to buy a computer and other equipment, funding VARPA’s own bulletin board system. It was moved from Rogers to the Provincial Emergency Program (PEP) where VARPA had access to the building and roof-top antennas. VARPA remained there until PEP (now EMBC) moved to Central Saanich. Packet radio peaked in 1990-1993, with Larry writing packet radio articles for a national magazine (CARF/RAC TCA “The Canadian Amateur”)

When the COMMS Director stepped down Larry was recommended for COMMS Co-Director.  

Larry is also a long-term Saint John Ambulance (SJA) volunteer and a bike squad officer for the past three years. He took a course last year and will now teach a SJA bike course this fall. He participated in 25 SJA bike patrol duties this year including the MEC run, Times Colonist 10K run, Goodlife Fitness Marathon and Woman for Warriors. 

The experience of wearing many hats at once with SJA, SEP, CRERCC and encouraging others to follow the cross-training has been a great asset to the Greater Victoria Region for many volunteer events involving amateur radio communications. The link between SJA, emergency programs and BCAS have provided the opportunity to work together with emergency services to provide more timely medical call response times in many marathons and large public events. Larry often dispatches at the BCAS center alongside BCAS and Amateur Radio dispatchers for these large coordinated events.

In December, Larry was recognized for 25 years of service with Saanich COMMS. Throughout those years there has been many changes to technology with Larry as active participant.  

Andrew Spray - Lifetime Achievement (Search and Rescue)

Andrew first became involved with the Provincial Emergency Program in 1977 in his third year as a faculty member at Lester B. Pearson United World College of the Pacific. Pearson College placed a strong emphasis on community service and challenging outdoor activities and one of the major components of their program that combined both aims was Search and Rescue, Land Rescue being the name of the program he joined.

Andrew had quite a lot of relevant experience through many years in the Scouting movement.

As part of Pearson College Land Rescue, Andrew spent a lot of time on cliff rescue and carried out a number of technical rescues in the Goldstream Park/Mount Finlayson area, as well as leading a number of missing person searches on lower Vancouver Island. In 1984, he attended the first Search Management course and has maintained that qualification since. He also attended a number of technical rescue seminars in Penticton.

When the District of Metchosin, where Pearson College is located, incorporated as a municipality in 1986, Andrew approached the Emergency Program Coordinator and suggested forming the Metchosin Search and Rescue. By forming MSAR, year round coverage would be provided, though Land Rescue at Pearson College would continue to exist. MSAR came into existence around 1988 with initially 10 members.

During this same period, Andrew was asked by PEP to prepare a new manual for ground search and rescue. That manual came into existence in 1989 and though heavily revised since, there are still some parts of it in the recently issued third or fourth edition of the manual and course.

By the early 90s, the abilities of MSAR members had surpassed those of Pearson College Land Rescue and Pearson College disappeared from the SAR scen,e though continued with a strong outdoor program. About that time, Andrew served three years as the SAR Advisory Board representative for South Vancouver Island. Gradually, the number of SAR incidents in which MSAR was involved increased as did the membership, the callouts rising in recent years to between 20 and 30 incidents a year. Andrew has maintained his involvement since 1977, as well as participating in many SAR tasks and heavily involved in training new members. The advent of cell phones and GPS unit, and more recently drones, has had very positive effects on SAR but helping people in difficulty together with working with his SAR colleagues remains a  source of great satisfaction in Andrew's life.