SEARCH and rescue teams across the province who use helicopter external transport systems, better known as long-lines, found themselves hamstrung over the weekend because of a certification snafu with the federal government.
The problem arose Friday when North Shore Rescue volunteers noticed that their HETS equipment, which they use regularly to pluck lost and injured hikers from inaccessible areas, had not received its mandatory certification from Transport Canada since 2007.
Facing the dire possibility of being without some of the team's most important tools, North Shore Rescue team leader Tim Jones contacted the media, and the story quickly made headlines. He also got in touch with North Vancouver Conservative MP Andrew Saxton, whom he credits with getting the situation resolved.
"If it hadn't been for him, this thing would be dead in the water," Jones said. "There was no way we could sit back and let bureaucracy chug along on this. Not in this instance. Lives were on the line."
Saxton contacted the Prime Minister's Office and the minister of transportation looking for a fast-tracked solution.
"I have a tremendous respect for Tim Jones and his team at North Shore Rescue. They do a great job protecting and saving lives. So When Tim Jones calls, I act - especially when lives may be at risk," said Saxton On Tuesday. "I impressed upon them the urgency of getting this resolved. Those long-lines can make the difference between life and death," Saxton said.
As of Tuesday, Transport Canada had met with North Vancouver-based Emergco, and SAR teams could have their HETS gear inspected and re-certified for immediate use.
Saxton could not say what caused the five-year oversight. Jones added there was never any doubt about the safety of the gear. His team makes use of it about once a month, Jones said - most recently on Sept. 22 when a North Vancouver man lost his way in the dark while coming down from the Lions.
Without access to HETS, what would take three rescuers less than an hour would take 30 or 40 volunteers a full day on foot, Jones said.