23 May, 2022
Mangawhai Heads volunteer lifeguards Jess Costello and Neil McInnes recently attended the Surf Lifesaving (SLSNZ) Search and Rescue (SAR) Summit in Otepoti/Dunedin.
The two senior lifeguards were part of a wider group of 40 SAR lifeguards and SAR specialists. The weekend was a combination of dynamic theory sessions, sector-led operational reviews and presentations.
Mangawhai Heads Volunteer Lifeguard Service (MHVLS) SAR squad coordinator Jess Costello said the weekend was one of the most valuable opportunities she has had in recent years.
“We developed an understanding about our own response to incidents, and key learnings (takeaways) we can use from each incident. We (MHVLS) are constantly evolving and want to enhance our response capabilities. Learning about the latest SAR technologies and methods is key to this.”
The course featured revolving workshops working with experts from Police SAR, Coastguard, Land SAR, AREC, and St John Ambulance.
“We were lucky enough to work with a group of over 40 experts who have a wealth of experience, knowledge crossed into other emergency services,” said Neil McInnes, a member of both the local fire brigade as a senior firefighter and senior lifeguard of the MHVLS SAR squad. “It was valuable to be able to work alongside people directly involved in a number of major SAR operations in NZ recently including the Marakopa search and rescue (missing family) and West Auckland Flood response.”
The course included several intensive practical and scenario-based activities along the stunning coastline of Dunedin, said Costello.
“The highlight of the weekend was being able to respond to SAR exercises in the local rescue helicopter. This was an excellent opportunity to network with SAR leaders within SLSNZ SAR and from supporting agencies from around the country, to take the learnings back to the Mangawhai Heads Volunteer Lifesaving Club SAR squad.”
Surf Lifesaving SAR squads around the country, including MHLVS SAR squad, are being increasingly called upon to respond to after-hours/off season incidents
including rescues, boat flips, and searches, but also to flood responses, on-land searches and river rescues.
“People probably don’t realise we (MHLVS) have a SAR response team unless they are in distress and engage with us first hand,” says Costello. “The demand is growing around the country and so this training provides knowledge and up-to-date protocols.
“One area we spent considerable time discussing was our assessment of risk, and how we respond. We need to ensure the safety of our SAR team before making any decisions on how we respond.”
Costello and McInnes both found the weekend extremely beneficial, receiving training in flood response, search patterns and inter-agency communications, and are looking forward to updating the SAR crew in Mangawhai.
“We work closely with other SLS clubs in the Northern Region, and are often directly tasked by NZ Police for search and rescues in our area,” adds Costello.
Mangawhai senior lifeguards Jess Costello and Neil McInnes attend a search and rescue summit in Dunedin. PHOTO/SUPPLIED
“The highlight of the weekend was being able to respond to SAR exercises in the local rescue helicopter.”
– Jess Costello