Coast Guard SAR planned two on-water Search and Rescue exercises for both Campbell River and Powell River on the weekend of 18-19 November 2018. Participants included the C.C.G., Powell River Lifeboat, SAR Program Instructors, Tla’amin Nation, RCMP and RCMSAR volunteers.
The training objectives included:
- Interoperability and team work
- Emergency communications
- Search and Rescue Techniques
- Risk Assessment and Mission Safety
- Canada’s Search and Rescue System
An interactive training session and pre-exercise briefing were held each morning in the respective location. This was followed by an on-water Search and Rescue exercise including simulated injured boaters recovery and cold water immersion casualty treatments from C.C.G. Rescue Specialists.
Both the shore-based training and the on-water exercise were an excellent opportunity for all organisations to work together and learn more about marine SAR. We had experienced SAR instructors leading the exercise and a C.C.G. Medic on hand to participate.
Station 60 Comox
The RCM SAR 60 Comox accepted the C.C.G. invitation to participate in both training exercises. It was an excellent opportunity for the members to apply their acquired knowledge and practice their skills. It was also a chance to play, learn and share ideas with other SAR groups.
Both days was carried out with a different crew. Cape Lazo type II vessel was taken to Campbell River the day before the exercise. Departing Comox on Saturday there was heavy fog in the Valley that lifted before arriving in Campbell River. After the exercise debriefing Cape Lazo was returned to Comox on the same day and ready to go the next day to Powell River.
On Sunday morning at 06:30 the new crew reported to the Station, ready to depart for Powell River. Again due to very thick fog the crew faced restricted visibility on the 5 nm trip to P54 in the Strait of Georgia. After crossing P54 the fog cleared over the Strait. We arrived just in time for coffee and donuts. Unit 59 Deep Bay covered our area in the event of a distress call.
The day started with a training session and safety briefing held in the Thulin room at the Maritime Heritage Centre in Campbell River. This was followed by an OTW exercise. Moorage was made available at the Fisherman’s Wharf for all participating vessels.
Same as in Campbell River the day started with the training session and safety briefing held at the Coast Guard Base, Powell River. Participating vessels were moored on the South side of Westview Harbour.
The goal of training was to simulate a real life situation. At the start of the exercise the participating vessels were assigned a search area. Despite careful planning, it was not possible to follow the exact course as it was subject to the actual weather. All players were expected to be well versed in their roles, responsibilities, plans and procedures. The participants were expected to perform as if in real conditions.
Aboard Cape Caution, the C.C.G. provided opportunity to train one of their own in the role of OSC. In this scenario OSC needed to adapt to changing circumstances and conditions.
Powell River scenario was similar to Campbell River except for the location. It was a vessel experiencing difficulties in open water; sinking with 4 PIW. For the exercise five SAR vessels took part in the simulation; CCG, RCM SAR 60,12,14, and First Nations.
En route to our destination assigned by MTCS we were on the look-out for anything OTW. We did find a gas can well mark for the exercise. We contacted OSC about the gas can. OSC advised us to carry on to destination assigned. Once on-site, we were a cable and a half from the west side of Hardwood Island to the shore. OSC instruction was to carry-on with a modified search pattern! We stopped (SAPP) to discussed OSC’s request. We started the modified search away from the shore for our vessel’s safety. At this point, several calls came over the VHF Radio from other vessels that found objects in the water. The VHF radio traffic started to come in fast and OSC responded with new directives. Every time the directives changed, we carried out a SAPP first then proceeded with the new directive. Near the end we did transfer one rescue body to our vessel with a minor injury to the head. Soon after, the training exercise came to an end.
The scenario was realistic and the tasking was carried out professionally by all participating groups without incident. We found the SAPP approach was very useful. Without calling it a SAPP, when our action needed to be readjusted, we stopped and discussed how we were to carry out the next step. Most of them were short discussions but the beauty of doing it was it’s like resetting the plan! For some people it can be difficult to deviate from the original plan but using SAPP makes it easier to let it go.
We completed the day with a debriefing aboard Cape Caution. Everyone seemed to be pleased with the exercise. Before we had a chance to take a group photo, one RCM SAR Unit received a distress call and had to leave. On the way to home base we did pacing between Cape Lazo and Cape Caution. It was a nice way to finish the day.
Story provided by Roch Massicotte, Station Leader, RCMSAR Unit 60 Comox