JB: I am not a SAR volunteer and I have a huge amount of respect for people like you who dedicate so much time to SAR. Thanks for engaging in this conversation.
Take a quick look at this page:
The headline reads:
"'Not very well prepared': What hikers rescued in B.C. did wrong"
The picture is of the two hikers in question and their full names are included in the story.
Quote from NSR include:
"they'd only done some research on the Internet about the trail,"
"They're not very well prepared,"
I think that story would be embarrassing for any of us.
I realize that you don't write the stories and that you do not intend to embarrass subjects but your team is involved and it's not unreasonable for members of the public to associate your team with these public shamings. The #1
rule when dealing with the media is to assume they will cherry pick quotes so only say something if you are comfortable with it being the one and only thing they put in the story. There are also things that SAR teams can do to inform subjects of their rights and to help them maintain privacy.
More recently, the headline today reads:
"We need to have a talk:" North Shore Rescue scolds hikers"
A headline like this will have two types of impact:
1) It will make it harder for SAR in general to get more funding from the province. When the general population believes that SAR is only there for people who are too foolish/lazy to be prepared, it becomes politically difficult for the government to increase funding levels.
2) It will hopefully reduce call volumes. By informing people of the risks associated with hiking at this time of year, you will hopefully make a few people think more carefully about their decisions and preparedness. Seeing as your funding levels are not being increased, it makes sense to focus on call reduction.
I acknowledge that you are in a tricky spot. How can you reduce short-term call volume while also maximizing the chance of increasing long-term funding? This is further complicated by the fact that the media gives preference to sensational stories and you also rely on some short-term media coverage to increase the profile of the team so that it is easier to raise short-term money from non-government sources.
All of this debate is just a symptom of a more serious underlying problem - the lack of appropriate and consistent (in time and across the province,) funding levels for SAR from the province.
I am personally optimistic that the BCSARA proposal for a new funding model will gain widespread support and will help to address that underlying problem.