British Columbia·WHAT'S YOUR STORY?

Marine search and rescue in need of volunteers

WHAT'S YOUR STORY: The Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue team has more than 1,000 volunteers across 41 stations in B.C., but it is still looking for more crew members.

Often confused with North Shore Rescue, or the Coast Guard, Marine search and rescue is recruiting

Randy Strandt has been volunteering for over 15 years with the Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

The Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue team has more than 1,000 volunteers across 41 stations in B.C., but it is still looking for more crew members.

"We are always looking for new volunteers," said Randy Strandt, who has been volunteering for over 15 years. 

The search and rescue team isn't as well known as North Shore Rescue and the members say they constantly get mistaken for the Canadian Coast Guard when they respond to calls. 

There are 41 stations across the province and they have over 1,000 volunteers (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

But the difference between them and the coast guard is that they are all-volunteer based and most have day jobs. 

"I grew up in a family, where my brother volunteered and my father volunteered," said Strandt, who works in finance.

"It seemed normal that you gave back to the community that you lived in," he said.  

Volunteers get shifts and need to live or work within 15 minutes of a rescue station, so they can dispatch as soon as the call comes in. Currently, the team is in dire need of volunteers that can work the day shift. 

"The hardest part is the number of hours. You get up at three in the morning — it's raining, it' dark and miserable and you have to get out," said Paul DeGrace, a volunteer. 

Tough calls

The search team responded to 830 calls last year and the respond to everything from mundane to severe.

"From someone hurt themselves on their boat to boat on fire, or boat sinking," said Strandt. 

It's not always easy dealing with the emotional aspect, says Louise Hooymans, another volunteer.

"I've been on a few calls that didn't have good outcomes," she said. 

"The days after things happen, it's hard. You will see things that remind you of that call, but you got to go on and think about the next time you get to help out and make the call different," she said. 

What's your story?

This story is part of a special CBC Vancouver News series, What's Your Story? The series focuses on issues pitched by our audience about what matters to them. 

If you have a story to pitch about an issue in your community, send it to mylocalstory@cbc.ca

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