Six Coastguard Kaikoura volunteers participated in a ‘desktop’ search and rescue exercise on Sunday 13th February along with three local and district Police SAR Coordinators. Mark Whitehouse, Coastguard Southern Region Operations Manager and Rachel Mackenzie Coastguard Canterbury volunteer and SAR Tutor took the group through three phases of the exercise. This included a revision of marine search and rescue planning and chart plotting; a training session on incident management and finally they worked together with local police on an exercise to find a ‘missing’ kayaker.
In the majority of cases Coastguard is tasked with a ‘rescue’. That is we have people in a boat or other water craft in distress due to a variety of reasons, and we have a location either supplied from the person in need of assistance or an informant. In smaller number of incidents we have a report of missing watercraft with persons on board and only a vague description of a either a last know location, where they were supposed to be going for the day, or a route they were taking. In these situations an incident can quickly scale up to a major search and rescue operation with multiple agencies involved.
“The purpose of a multi-agency desktop exercise is to give us practice at working together’ says Mark Whitehouse. “To develop an understanding of each other strengths, operating procedures and roles and responsibilities.”
Mr Whitehouse says that the more familiar we are with each other as organisaitons and individuals the better able we are to work together to achieve a positive outcome in a high pressure search and rescue situation. It also helps us identify areas to put in extra support and training for individuals and organisations. To identify particular skills that individuals have that can be valuable in the roles within the Incident Management Team. ” In these situations it’s not about Coastguard or the Police or whichever agency we belong to, it’s about the team on the day doing the best job possible with the resources and skills available” Mark said.