The controversial closure of the federally funded Kitsilano Coast Guard base may not be as bad for Richmond as first feared.
That’s the view of the Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue (RCMSAR)’s Greg Miller, who said Richmond may even “benefit” from the shut down.
The Kitsilano base is scheduled to close next summer, with the Coast Guard’s hovercraft at Sea Island expected to take up much of the slack.
It’s also forecast that with the closure, Richmond’s two volunteers manned RCMSAR vessels — based on the middle arm of the Fraser River and at Steveston — may have to cope with a 50 per cent spike in calls. However, Miller explained that Richmond may now receive more money from the government to train its crews to a higher standard.
It now needs to deal with potentially 130 calls per year, as opposed to around 80.
“We don’t expect too much impact (on service levels) in Richmond,” Miller told city council’s community safety committee.
“I actually think Richmond may benefit from extra money for more first aid training and other training. There is a potential drawback in that the hovercraft will have to cover a wider area and may be called out of our area more often. (But) we don’t think that there’s going to be a service difference in Richmond.”
There will be a “higher demand,” said Miller, on the 30 volunteers that constitute the Richmond crews who work on rotation manning the two rescue vessels. “But we’ve been doing it for 25 years in Richmond and hopefully we’ve got it figured out where we need to be.”
Miller said RCMSAR — which provides back-up to the Coast Guard and emergency services, but can be first on the scene on occasions — still aims to have a boat in the water, when tasked, within 20 minutes.
A fundraising drive is just about to kick off to bless Richmond with a third RCMSAR vessel.
As is a recruiting drive, which Miller said is going to be vital so not to stretch the current crews too much when service levels rise, as expected, next year.
“What we will be trying to do is increase our members, as there is more of a guarantee of a quicker response,” he said.
“Who knows if we will have to deal with more calls or not, but we need to be ready for it.
“Our biggest challenge right now is that, because of the Kits closure, we’re getting calls from people in Vancouver to join.”
The first box, however, that must be ticked in qualifying to join the team is getting to one of the boats within 20 minutes.
Secondly, they’re looking for people with a boating background. “They will need a pleasure craft operators certificate, a radio licence and have first aid training,” added Miller.
“We do offer all those courses, but we wouldn’t want a situation where people come here, get trained up and then leave.”
Ideally, the team needs more coxswains and advanced crew members. More recruits would allow current crew to be pushed up to the more senior levels, said Miller.
“Essentially, what we’ll need is five to 10 good candidates,” said Miller.
“It’s likely next year that they will be more daytime calls and there’s only so many times myself or other crew members can leave their day jobs.”
Anyone interested in joining Richmond’s RCMSAR team should email email@example.com.