Every time Dwight Yochim's pager goes off, he's hoping it's not a call for a medical emergency requiring a helicopter rope rescue.
That's because the Coquitlam Search and Rescue team manager doesn't have the necessary equipment in place to carry out the task.
The SAR team is still without a rope and harness kit for its Helicopter External Transportation System (HETS). The new kit was supposed to arrive in January, but as the month passed, the team is still waiting.
"The whole reason we put the kit in place was for our team's safety and the [rescue] subject's safety, and delays compromise that," Yochim told The NOW.
The team's HETS was shelved last fall after a piece of rescue equipment was decertified by Transport Canada.
The team was trained and ready to go by September and had a temporary rope and harness kit ready for action up until it got word from the federal agency to pull the plug.
Yochim said he's been informed the specific piece of equipment is complete and could be on the way any time, but added the organization has been told that several times in the last couple of months and then not received anything.
Part of the problem, as Yochim sees it, is there is only one company in Canada producing the kit.
He's hoping other companies will start making the kit to reduce the wait time.
Even if the SAR did get the kit immediately, it would take about a month for the team to get retrained and have the rope line fully operational.
As winter turns to spring, not having the HETS in place is becoming a big concern for Coquitlam SAR.
Yochim noted spring is typically the time when the local mountains and trails are heavily used, and calls for service go up.
"I'm hoping to have it within a month, because it could get busy after that," he said, adding the team has been called out to help in five searches in the last couple of weeks alone.
The local search crew usually handles about five helicopter rope rescues a year.
The new equipment costs about $60,000.
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