Read this before you go for a hike this weekend

The BC Search and Rescue association says the COVID-19 pandemic means people must be extra cautious in the outdoors

While the COVID-19 pandemic has forced hundreds of thousands of British Columbians to spend more time at home, that isolation has prompted many to head for mountains and trails instead of shuttered swimming pools and community centres for recreation and exercise.

But while hikers may be able to maintain physical distance in the great outdoors, there are other safety considerations.

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Friday, the BC Search and Rescue Association (BCSARA) and Emergency Management BC sent out a press release appealing to the public to take extra precautions if heading into the outdoors so they don’t get lost or injured.

“British Columbia’s 2,500 search and rescue volunteers respond to calls all over the province to help those who have been lost, stranded or injured in B.C.’s outdoors,” the release stated. “With the COVID-19 pandemic, the risks these volunteers and other personnel take are heightened, as there is a risk of virus transmission during a call.

“By taking extra precautions, people help reduce the risk to search and rescue volunteers, other responders and front-line health care workers.”

BCSARA provided some things you must consider if you go into the outdoors during this pandemic:

• Park access may have changed: Some parks and high-use areas are closed, so check park information sources before you leave home.

• SAR volunteer levels may fluctuate: The volume and type of search responses is changing as volunteers deal with their own needs related to COVID-19. Some areas may see reductions while others will see increases depending on access, user numbers and levels of experience.

• Physical distancing must be done, even outside: Physical distancing will help prevent transmission of COVID-19 and that includes when you’re outside. While it is recognized that physical activity is essential for mental wellbeing, the release stated, the need for physical distance during any activity is more important, so stay at least two metres from other people and avoid going in groups — and stay home if you’re sick.   

• Self, Team, Bystanders and then Subject: Search and rescue teams operate within that safety maxim, meaning they will step back from a response if it puts them at undue risk. Should the risk of exposure to the novel coronavirus for searchers exceed an acceptable level, a response will be delayed until additional steps can be taken to reduce the risk.

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