by Ken McManus
In last weekend’s large scale Search and Rescue Exercise (SAREX) off Bermagui on the NSW far South Coast, six rescue training manikins 'missing at sea' were all successfully recovered.
Marine Rescue NSW and Westpac Rescue Helicopter crews at the Bermagui SAREX on July 20/21. L to R Bruce Mitchell, Regional Controller Illawarra MRNSW; Rod Page, Training Manger North MRNSW; Rescue Crew Officer Luke AshfordWestpac Rescue Helicopter Service (WHRS); Terry Joyce, Training Manger Central MRNSW; Glenn Sullivan, Training Manger South MRNSW; Captain Rob Wildman (Pilot) WRHS, Euan McKenzie Air Crew Officer WRHS.
Close to 60 members of key marine and emergency services took part in an intensive, annual 2-day Search and Rescue Exercise (sarex) at Bermagui on the NSW far South Coast last weekend. Participants included NSW Police Force Marine Area Command, Marine Rescue NSW, Roads and Maritime Services, NSW Ambulance Service, Surf Life Saving, Australian Maritime Safety Authority, the Royal Australian Navy and the Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service.
Dean Storey, Deputy Commissioner Marine Rescue NSW, said, 'Regular combined agency exercises such as these are designed to hone the skills of the personnel involved to help ensure an efficient and effective response in a real search and rescue emergency.'
The objective of the weekend’s program was to search for six rescue training manikins which were described as 'six people lost at sea following the sinking of a boat several nautical miles east of Bermagui'.
Saturday was spent developing a plan for the exercise and Sunday saw all of the resources deployed to locate the 'missing boaters'.
Volunteers from Marine Rescue Merimbula, one of eight participating MNRNSW Units, with Westpac Rescue Helicopter
Strategies involved in search and rescue include establishment of a Command and Control protocol for precise, orderly management of the search and a clear chain of command for communications between all searchers; developing a search plan and search grid for rescue vessels to follow and assessment of prevailing currents and weather conditions.
The search on Sunday commenced at 0930 and the lead agency was NSW Police Marine Area Command. The first manikin was recovered within 10 minutes of the search commencing and all six had been located – both in the water and on nearby rocky shores – within the first hour.
'This was an impressive result,' said Deputy Commissioner Storey. 'The co-operation between all agencies involved was very good and the pressure of having to locate a total of six missing targets was much greater than most sarex.'
Marine Rescue NSW takes part in several large scale multi-agency sarex every year at locations in all regions of the NSW coast. These are in addition to individual exercises that are carried out by each unit as part of their own, individual local training programs.
'Exercises like this are essential training for Marine Rescue NSW, however, I urge all boaters of NSW to help themselves avoid the need for a real life rescue by taking some basic and simple precautions each time they go boating', said Deputy Commissioner Storey.
'Always wear a life jacket; always Log on with your local Marine Rescue radio base to let someone responsible know where you’re going and when you expect to return - and when you return, always Log Off so we know you’re back safely. If an emergency has prevented this, we’ll know there is something wrong and can take action to put our training into effect.'
Marine Rescue NSW