Fernie Search and Rescue

Fernie Search and Rescue is dedicated to assisting those individuals who find themselves in emergency situations in the wilderness surrounding the Fernie area. The group was formed in the 1970s and has been involved in hundreds of rescues and saved many lives.
Fernie Search and Rescue
Fernie Search and Rescue
Following coverage in the press, we have had a number of requests to comment on the benefits of using the “What Three Words” (W3W) app to report location in the event of a backcountry emergency.

In short we do not advocate its use. To be clear, if that is the way an emergency location is reported, we will respond to it like we would any other, but the app has no meaningful benefits, and a number of shortcomings, relative to simpler traditional means.

If you wish to know more about this please read on.

The majority of backcountry emergencies in our area occur outside of cell service. As such, a satellite communication device and/or a trip plan remain the gold standard for summoning an emergency response. W3W does not help outside of cell range.

For those emergencies that actually occur within cell range we have a number of solutions that work incredibly well:-

(1) The reporting party states the latitude and longitude on their phone’s compass or location page; and/or
(2) Screenshot and send the information in (1); and/or
(3) Use of the Trailforks app to share location using the “Emergency Info” button; and/or
(4) Obtain a ‘ping’ of a cellphone’s location from the cell provider; and/or
(5) SAR send the cellphone a special link via text that when pressed shares your location with us.

The last one is especially useful – it will work using a minimal amount of battery power, and will work when people are on the fringes of cell coverage, when only an intermittent signal is available. No app, download, or other action is required on your part.

So what is the What Three Words (W3W) app?

W3W is a location system that has split the entire planet into 3 metre by 3 metre grids, each one assigned a unique name made out of three random words. You download the W3W app and the app then uses your phone’s geo-locator to tell you what grid you are in. In an emergency you can report that grid name to 911 (assuming you have good enough cell service and battery life to speak). As such, the location information has the same accuracy as your compass, Trailforks or map app, it is simply where your phone thinks you are, but that is generally pretty good. The benefit claimed is that it avoids confusion between different longitude and latitude formats.

So why are we not so keen on it? For a number of reasons:-

(1) Some of the recent articles give the impression that this app has value beyond cell range – it does not. A cell signal is required to report the location;
(2) Most people do not have this app, so will waste precious battery life and time downloading it if asked to by 911;
(3) Latitude and longitude is the language of Search and Rescue – SAR, helicopter pilots, SPOT and InReach devices all work on this standard – if a lat/long is acquired via any of the methods described above, SAR responders will make sure the format is correct. If it is acquired as a W3W location it will need converting to lat/long – another opportunity for error;
(4) The biggest problem is that the three words are random and bear no correlation from grid to grid. So if you report dog.pig.ant as your location, and it is written as dog.pig.ants that location could be on the opposite side of the planet. A lat and long that is transcribed wrongly is almost always decipherable.

Have we had experience of this app in live rescues? Yes, we have, and for an injured mountain biker on a trail above Fernie we were given a location that corresponded to a location in the Northern Territories of Australia. This was because just one of the words was transcribed in the singular rather than the plural by the dispatcher. In another we had a subject waste time trying to download the app in spotty cell coverage and fail to get it to work, when a simple Trailforks share established an exact location. Fernie SAR is not alone in BC as reporting issues with this app wasting SAR resources and delaying responses.

In conclusion, SAR will work with whatever we are given, including W3W, but this app will potentially slow down the response. For backcountry travel satellite communicators and/or a solid trip plan continue to be the most important tools in emergency situations. If you happen to be in cell range there are many options, and W3W would be at the bottom of the list.

#searchandrescue
Fernie Search and Rescue
Fernie Search and Rescue
Fernie, British Columbia
Fernie SAR responded to a call from Elk Valley RCMP shortly after midnight to search for two missing women last thought to be fishing in the Bull River area. They were located around 4am, safe and well.

As this is the second all night search we have conducted this week, it is a good opportunity to remind travellers in our area that cell coverage is very limited outside the main highway corridor. Some form of satellite communicator is highly recommended, and a trip plan is essential.

A trip plan can be as simple as a note or text saying where you are going and when you are due back, left with a responsible person. The Fernie SAR website has a link to an AdventureSmart online trip plan. This simple precaution before embarking on a backcountry trip saves rescue crews lengthy search missions and can often be the difference between life and death for missing people. Our catchment area is over 4,000 km2, and without a trip plan to work with it can be very challenging to locate subjects.

#searchandrescue
#bcsara
Fernie Search and Rescue
Fernie Search and Rescue
UPDATE - Danny has been located and is safe and well. Thank you to the many people who shared this information and the friends and work colleagues who assisted in the search.

#bcsara
Fernie Search and Rescue
Fernie Search and Rescue
UPDATE- DANNY HAS BEEN FOUND SAFE AND WELL

Fernie SAR is working with Sparwood SAR to locate missing hunter Danny Fijila. 35 year old male in the green 1998 Jeep Cherokee in the photo. BC plate # LG949C.

Danny was out hunting, setting out home at 11am Tuesday morning and has not been seen since. He may have been hunting in the Bull River area.

If he or his vehicle are located please call RCMP Sparwood on 250 425 6233
Fernie Search and Rescue
Fernie Search and Rescue
Fernie, British Columbia
Fernie SAR was called out today to rescue two hunters who got stuck on a cliff.

A combination of CDFL (helicopter longline) and rope rescue was used to bring them to safety.

#bcsara
#cdfl
@ascenthelicopters
Fernie Search and Rescue
Fernie Search and Rescue
Elk Valley RCMP respond to fatal UTV rollover

Elk Valley
2021-09-05 16:20 PDT
File # 2021-2773

Elk Valley RCMP and the BC Coroners Service are investigating a rollover Utility Terrain Vehicle (UTV) incident that claimed a man's life late last night.

Around 11:50 p.m. on September 4, Elk Valley RCMP along with BC Ambulance and Fernie Search and Rescue responded to a serious rollover involving a UTV in the Newgate area on the west side of Lake Kookanusa.

Initial investigation has revealed that an Alberta man was driving the UTV with an adult male passenger, also from Alberta when the UTV rolled in a body of water. The passenger suffered fatal injuries and was declared deceased at the scene. The driver of the UTV did not sustain any injuries.

#bcsara