BBA Curtis Jones applies human resources to search and rescue

Feb 06, 2012

On a recent Thursday in January, an emergency call from Mount Seymour in the North Shore Mountains is typical of what undergraduate business student Curtis Jones deals with when he’s not immersed in human resources studies.

Jones, who is in his final year at the Beedie School of Business, is also a longtime member of North Shore Search and Rescue, a volunteer-run search and rescue team operating in Vancouver and surrounding areas.

On this occasion, a 24-year-old snowboarder is stranded on the edge of a dangerous mountain drop known as Suicide Gully.

Within minutes of the alert, Jones and his team members from North Shore Search and Rescue are flying by helicopter into a perilous situation. Despite their accessibility from the city, the North Shore Mountains are known for treacherous terrain and wicked weather conditions, especially in the heart of winter.

It turns out the snowboarder in this case had unwisely ducked out of bounds from a groomed ski hill, only to find himself trapped on the remote edge of a deadly mountain drop. It could be a life-or-death situation. One wrong move and the results might be fatal.

With nightfall fast approaching, the stranded subject is located from above by Jones’ team between two cliff bands on steep snow. He is poorly equipped for the elements and mildly hypothermic.

Jones, who made his first helicopter rescue at the age of 16, is fully certified for helicopter rescue as a member of the Helicopter External Transport team. It means that he can exit the helicopter while in flight, he can dangle underneath it and he can be dropped into the rugged backcountry terrain.

With a limited light window, Jones is dropped from the hovering helicopter on a 200 foot longline – inserted to the site where the subject is located. Staying on the line, he connects the young man below to the system and evacuates back to the heli pad.

It’s a challenging call for both rescuers and pilot, but in this case the snowboarder is brought to safety without injury. Had the helicopter rescue failed, it’s unlikely he would have made it through the night.

It’s just another day at the “office” for volunteer Jones, who has participated in over 300 rescues  – each with its own set of circumstances, weather conditions and back-country terrain.

Jones isn’t the first member of his family to take on the world of search and rescue. His father, Tim Jones, is team leader of North Shore and Rescue, and is well known in British Columbia as their media spokesperson. It turns out that the elder Jones also attended Simon Fraser University.

So it was natural for the younger Jones, who hails from North Vancouver and graduated from Windsor Secondary, to follow his father on both fronts. “My dad really enjoyed his education at Simon Fraser, so I thought, why not for me as well,” said Jones.

As a freshman, he initially was aiming for a degree in criminology or psychology, but he quickly changed focus after an introductory economics course captured his imagination.  He parlayed that interest into more business classes, eventually switching over to the Bachelor of Business Administration program.

After taking an introductory class in human resources with Rick Iverson, Professor of Human Resource Management at Beedie, he quickly found a concentration in HR that was a perfect fit as well. “I chose my HR concentration because of him,” said Jones. “His classes aren’t easy, but his teaching style is amazing.”

The focus on HR is a natural fit for Jones.   “It’s more applied is what it came down to for me,” he said. “I think business as a field of study does a real good job of applying theory to the real-world.”

Jones, who more recently studied under Iverson in the class Performance Management, puts much of his learning to use in his volunteer capacity at North Shore Search and Rescue, where he also handles recruitment selection and training for regular team members, as well as some administrative activities. Additionally, he served on the organization’s board of directors for two years.

It may not be an obvious combination, but from Jones’ perspective, business skills and working in a search and rescue operation are a comfortable and logical pairing. “When you’re out there on a rescue, you are under time pressure, and you are problem-solving on your feet. You get that in the business world.”

Curtis Jones also blogs extensively for North Shore Search & Rescue. To read some of the most recent entries, visit

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