THE multi-agency search and rescue exercise (SAREX) held off Bermagui on the weekend has deemed a success.
All six dummies dropped off the coast in Sunday’s practical component were located and “rescued” by the volunteers and paid emergency service personnel.
The inshore rescue was coordinated by the Marine Rescue Narooma unit’s rescue vessel Narooma 30 and saw two dummies dropped on rocks at the Three Brothers south of Bermagui and another dropped in the water nearby off Cuttagee Beach.
The Narooma 30 crew consisted of unit commander and skipper John Young, navigator Julia Mayo-Ramsay and crewmen Ray Kapel and Trevor Taylor.
Also along were the Narooma Marine Rescue unit’s two JetSki personal watercraft being piloted by Ross Constable and Damien Stanford.
Three rubber ducks from the Tathra, Bermagui and Batemans Bay surf life saving clubs, as well as a JetSki from the Broulee surf life saving club joined the inshore flotilla.
Far South Coast Surf Life Saving Branch spokesman Andrew Edmunds said the dummies were found in no time at all and were either winched up by the Westpac Life Saver 3 helicopter or picked up by the rubber duck crews.
At the same time as the inshore exercise, the larger vessels from Marine Rescue participated in the offshore rescue exercise a few nautical miles off Bermagui.
Coordinating this component was the police launch Falcon out of Eden as well as the Road and Maritime Services vessel from Narooma.
A navy helicopter from 723 Squadron flew overhead as the new Steber 38 vessels from Batemans Bay and Bermagui and the rigid-hulled inflatable boat from Merimbula did grid-pattern searches.
Bermagui Marine Rescue unit commander Alec Percival said the whole weekend was a success with his unit’s new rescue vessel Bermagui 30 having a full contingent of eight crew including four new trainees.
“The choppers dropped lines and picked up the dummies and also dropped lines while hovering over our boat, which was quite impressive,” he said.
Marine Rescue NSW Commissioner Stacey Tannos said up to 40 volunteers from eight MRNSW Units as well as operators from other emergency services participated in the two days of theory and on-water exercises.
“This SAREX is one of a series of exercises held along the coastline each year to hone rescue teams’ marine search skills and bolster our rescue capability,” Commissioner Tannos 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 a marine emergency.”
Members of Marine Rescue NSW units from Batemans Bay, Tuross, Narooma, Bermagui, Merimbula, Eden, Alpine Lakes and Moama took part in the weekend tests.
The event also involved personnel from NSW Police Force Marine Area Command, Roads and Maritime Services, NSW Ambulance Service, the Royal Australian Navy and the Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service.
The Marine Area Command offshore patrol vessel, Falcon, coordinated along with the Navy 723 Squadron helicopter.
A briefing on the use of helicopters in search and rescue on Saturday morning was followed by an inspection of the Navy chopper on the football oval in Bermagui that afternoon.
The crews spent Saturday at Bermagui Country Club, completing table-top exercises and updating their knowledge in areas such as coastal search and rescue theory, water currents and drift, determining search areas and new forms of data transmission to operational vessels.
They then took to the water off Bermagui on Sunday morning to put this knowledge to the test, with the aim of locating and retrieving a number of dummies dropped into the ocean.