Campbell River’s Cameron Wallis has been into radio for as long as he can remember.
But he couldn’t know that his love for radio would lead to him being an integral participant in the rescue of an injured ATV rider in the Cowichan Valley while taking some out-of-town visitors to Elk Falls last month.
Let’s start by stepping back a bit.
Wallis got into radio when he was just a kid, living in the Lower Mainland.
“My dad was a courier, and he’d always bring his radios home, and I guess I kind of got obsessed with them,” Wallis says. “And then I joined an amateur radio club in Coquitlam when I was in high school – which is actually very similar to the Strathcona Regional District’s Emergency Communications Team.”
That’s where he got his basic qualifications and received a call sign. He was 16.
That spurred a lifelong love of the hobby, and when he moved to Campbell River in 2018, he used his love of radio to meet some new people after reading about the Strathcona Emergency Program needing more members for its communications team in the Campbell River Mirror.
“I just thought, here are some guys that are like minded that I can hang out with,” he says.
So he joined the team, installed a more powerful radio in his truck, and it just happened to be on when an emergency call came over the Island Trunk one day earlier this month.
“It was just kind of a happy coincidence in terms of timing,” he says. He was taking some friends out to see Elk Falls – as you do when people come to town who have never been there – “and right as I was pulling back into town, I hear this transmission, and VE7NEW had ‘emergency traffic,’ which isn’t good. So I picked up my radio and told him I was listening.”
VE7NEW is the call sign of Dean Stennes with the Cowichan Valley ATV Club. One of the club’s members had hit a rock and flipped his machine, pinning the rider underneath. They had no cell service, and therefore had no way to get a call in to BC Ambulance.
So Wallis made that call for him.
“I was able to have him on the radio and have BC Ambulance on the phone, and when they asked questions I could relay them to him and then relay his answers,” Wallis says, and when the group got back to the parking lot at the trailhead with their injured friend, an ambulance was there waiting for them.
Wallis says the event just reinforced his belief that the more people who are trained in radio use, the better.
“I think it’s a really important skill to have,” he says. “It’s not hard to learn how to use radio, and the reality is that cell phones are going to go down if something big happens.”
Which is why, this coming January, the Strathcona Emergency Program is running another round of its amateur radio training, with 70 spots open for participants to get certified for free.
“I’m glad this story had a happy ending,” Wallis says, “and I would certainly encourage anyone with any sort of interest in emergency preparedness – which I think everyone in Campbell River should have, considering the seismic plates and the dam upstream – to take the course being put on in January, even if just to see if it’s something you have any interest in.”
The course runs over eight sessions beginning Wednesday, Jan. 15 through Wednesday, March 1, and those interested in attending can contact program coordinator Shaun Koopman by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 250-830-6702.