Central Okanagan Search and Rescue (COSAR) is a registered non-profit organization in the province of British Columbia. It functions primarily as a Community resource in assisting the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), the British Columbia Ambulance Service (BCAS) and the Coroners Service of British Columbia in a variety of Search and Rescue (SAR) functions.
Search and Rescue (SAR) in Canada is comprised of the following 3 main categories:
- Ground and Inland Water - Provincial responsibility within British Columbia held by police detachment having jurisdiction
- Marine - Federal responsibility held by Canadian Coast Guard
- Air - Federal responsibility held by Canadian Armed Forces
The Central Okanagan Search and Rescue traces its roots back to an incident that occurred in 1954. It was during this time when a young girl on a family camping trip wandered away from her site. It quickly became apparent that there was no trained or organized group available to search for this child; consequently a band of people initiated the search and Kelowna Search and Rescue was formed. These caring individuals who searched that day, and eventually found the small child, recognized the need for an established Search and Rescue and they would become the core nucleus of the Central Okanagan Search and Rescue - now the oldest organized Search and Rescue group of its kind in B.C. In 1997, Kelowna Search and Rescue and Westbank Search and Rescue amalgamated, and Central Okanagan Search and Rescue was formed.
Operating under the auspices set out by Emergency Management BC (EMBC – formerly known as PEP) Central Okanagan Search and Rescue is manned solely by volunteers. These individuals, an average of 50, are on call 24hrs/day, and 365 days a year through the use of VHF pagers, text messages, phone calls and e-mails. Call-outs are usually initiated by the local detachment of the RCMP or BC Ambulance. One of these agencies then contacts the team’s acting Duty Officer and briefs him/her on the details of the operational task. A call is placed to the EMBC duty officer in Victoria to obtain a task number. This number allows for reimbursement for expenses such as mileage and meals incurred during this task. Volunteers are then called to the base where a briefing is given and resources are deployed. During some operations, the designated SAR manager will request additional resources. These could be other local SAR groups such as Vernon or Penticton, as well as aerial support from local RCMP and the Civil Air Search and Rescue Association (CASARA). It is important that volunteers respond promptly and are properly equipped, since valuable time can be lost at the outset of an operation.
With the increase in adventure tourism and other outdoor recreational sports, the number of people who need our assistance each year is increasing, thereby resulting in an essential need for Search and Rescue services. COSAR cannot maintain its operational abilities without the support of the community. To find out ways that you can support COSAR, please visit our Sponsors page.
- Search and Rescue services for the Provincial Emergency Program (PEP) and responsible police authority, namely RCMP
- Assistance to civil authorities
- Assistance to other organizations with similar purposes
- Community education