Cowichan exercise puts rescuers to test

The Cowichan Valley will play host to more than 100 search and rescue volunteers and members of associated groups

The Cowichan Valley will play host to more than 100 search and rescue volunteers and members of associated groups for a massive training exercise this weekend.

“Rescue on the Rock” will combine a significant ground SAR scenario with specialty skills situations such as rope rescue, swiftwater and man-tracking.

Dog handlers and equestrian team members will be involved, as well as Civilian Air Search and Rescue — which is expected to have three fixed-wing planes attending — and the Cowichan Valley Amateur Radio Society, which regularly works alongside Cowichan SAR.

The North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP is also involved and is planning a mock crime scene to help SAR volunteers hone their evidence search skills.

A committee of Cowichan SAR members has worked for months to plan the event.

“It’s a huge undertaking to plan an exercise like this, with so many different aspects and people involved,” organizer Carlie Coopsie said.

“We’ve got a great planning team putting in an incredible amount of time and attention to detail to think through various possible outcomes and what the teams in the field might come back with.”

Rescue on the Rock is typically held every two years at various locations on Vancouver Island.

Exact details of the exercise are a closely guarded secret, but the location is expected to be around the Skutz Falls area on the Cowichan River.

“As in an actual SAR task, our search managers won’t be given a great deal of information, so a lot depends on what they and the teams in the field do with the few important details they get,” Coopsie said.

“There will be a lot of action for the volunteers and they’ll get a lot of opportunities to practise their skills.”