Mid North Coast rescue crews put search skills to the test

Woolgoolga rescue vessel WO 30
Rescue specialists from the Mid North Coast will join in a major Marine Rescue NSW Search and Rescue Exercise (SAREX) at Coffs Harbour this weekend. MRNSW Deputy Commissioner Heinz Mueller will join up to fifty volunteers from the Wooli, Woolgoolga, Coffs Harbour, Nambucca, Trail Bay, Port Macquarie, Camden Haven, Crowdy Harrington and Forster-Tuncurry Marine Rescue units at the two-day event.

Deputy Commissioner Mueller said the SAREX was one of a series of exercises held along the coastline each year to hone rescue teams’ marine search skills and bolster rescue capability.

'These events are an integral part of the training that Marine Rescue volunteers receive throughout the year to hone the skills they need to assist the public in times of trouble,' he said.

'Arrangements are in place to allow rescue agencies to work seamlessly on the smooth and efficient coordination of a rescue operation, providing the optimal chance of finding someone in trouble in the water quickly and safely.

'These exercises help ensure that personnel in all relevant agencies, from those plotting the search pattern to those actively engaged in the search on the water, are familiar with their roles and responsibilities in the event of an emergency.'

The largest SAREX staged in NSW was held at Tweed Heads last weekend, bringing together personnel and resources from NSW, Queensland, Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia and the ACT.

Four MRNSW vessels, including the Woolgoolga unit’s new $337,000 9m boat and Wooli’s $345,000 Naiad delivered at Easter, will take part in this weekend’s exercise. Other agencies participating include:

• NSW Police Force Marine Area Command (MAC) personnel and launch, Fearless
• Royal Australian Navy personnel and helicopters
• Westpac Rescue Helicopter
• NSW Ambulance Service
• Roads and Maritime Services
• Surf Life Saving Australia

On Saturday, members will focus on tabletop exercises and search planning and coordination training, led by MAC Search and Rescue Coordinator Sergeant Paul Farquharson, to build their operational skills and knowledge.

On Sunday, air and sea crews will head out on a simulated search and rescue operation to find and retrieve rescue dummies dropped by chopper in the ocean.

Participants will be transported by helicopter to Solitary Island to practice island search and retrieval methods, with the assistance of the guidance of the National Parks and Wildlife Service.