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'Play it safe': Outdoor enthusiasts urged to prepare before heading into B.C.'s backcountry

Since April 2020, search and rescue crews have been deployed for almost 1,600 search and rescue missions
Man in the snow
Outdoor enthusiasts are being urged to make sure they plan and prepare before venturing into the B.C. wilderness during COVID-19. photo Getty Images

If you're planning on playing in B.C.'s backcountry this winter, "play it safe." 

That's the message authorities and rescue groups are sending as they urge all outdoor enthusiasts to make sure they plan and prepare before venturing into the wilderness during COVID-19 this winter. 

In a release on Dec. 9, Emergency Management BC said calls for search and rescue teams were continuing to rise, and now more than ever people had to ensure they were prepared in the backcountry to keep themselves and rescue crews safe. 

"Since the beginning of this pandemic we have seen an increase in the number of people enjoying the outdoors, but also a persistent rise in the number of ground search and rescue calls in British Columbia," said Mike Farnworth, minister of public safety and solicitor general, in a release. 

"People are getting stuck or lost, and we're finding they're unprepared for the elements or haven't familiarized themselves with their route.

"This can be dangerous, not only for the people who are in distress, but also for the search and rescue crews deployed to help." 

Since April 2020, crews have been deployed for almost 1,600 search and rescue missions. That’s more than 300 additional callouts compared to the same period in 2019 and 2018, which had 1,265 and 1,236 deployments, respectively.

Chris Kelly, president of BC Search and Rescue Association, said the risk is not only being unprepared for the outdoors but also exposing professional volunteers to COVID-19 during callouts.  

“Our members risk life and limb to keep people safe, and that risk is compounded by the pandemic,” he said in a release.

“We're imploring everyone playing in the B.C. backcountry to play it safe – for their sake and the sake of our dedicated crews and their families."

Jennifer Rice, parliamentary secretary for emergency preparedness, said: "preparedness is the first step when considering heading out into the elements."

"Don't let an adventure turn into an emergency,” she urged.  

“Instead, research your route, look at the forecast, pack appropriately and leave a trip plan. It's critical to know your limits, dress for the conditions and bring extra layers in case you get lost or stranded."

BC AdventureSmart tips on heading outdoors during the pandemic:


  • Make a plan that explains your destination, travel route and expected return time.
  • Know the terrain and conditions.
  • Check out the weather forecast to inform your planning.


  • Get the knowledge and skills you need before heading out, e.g., avalanche safety training.
  • Know your limits. Stay within them.

Take the essentials:

  • Always carry the essentials and know how to use them.
  • Add seasonal and sport-specific gear (e.g., microspikes, avalanche transceiver, shovel, probe).

To learn more about how to remain safe when heading outdoors during the pandemic head to AdventureSmart.  

For disaster readiness information and tips on seasonal readiness, including how to prepare an emergency plan and what to include in an emergency kit visit PreparedBC

For information or to learn about avalanche after head to Avalanche Canada