Two Coast Guard boats, two dozen volunteers and a couple of dogs with Nanaimo’s Coast Guard auxiliary and search and rescue units participated in an all-day training exercise together recently.
The land and water rescue groups got together June 25 to practise communication in a co-ordinated emergency response situation.
While the two groups typically function and train separately, some rescue situations require both resources, said Ruth Sharun, in charge of special projects and recruiting officer with the auxiliary.
This isn’t the first time the units have trained together, said Sharun. The last exercise was held on Newcastle Island a few years ago.
“We do have plans to do another one in September,” she said.
Volunteers did two mock rescue scenarios – one at Neck Point Park and the other at the mouth of the Nanaimo River – during the all-day training exercise.
The first scenario was finding a child who disappeared from her parents’ sight while playing with a kayak at Neck Point.
Auxiliary members spotted the girl – a training dummy – and the land team practised first aid skills, then packaged the girl on a stretcher and helped load her onto one of the Coast Guard boats.
Sharun said Neck Point has ambulance access, but boat crews wanted to practise a shore pickup.
In the afternoon exercise, volunteers had to locate a downed plane in the Nanaimo River mudflats. The “plane” was a dinghy with a transmitter signal.
While searching for the plane, the teams learned about an injured canoist further up the river – in the shallows where auxiliary boats cannot go – who land crews had to rescue using a small inflatable dinghy.
In both scenarios, the dogs – one a certified rescue dog – were given scents to follow.
Sharun said the exercises were based on similar situations that have occurred elsewhere and while the volunteers knew a training exercise was going to occur that day, they were instructed to remain at home until called out.
“We paged out and had a mock briefing,” she said. “We wanted to keep it as realistic as possible.”
The volunteers realized during the exercise that communication equipment was incompatible and needs upgrading.
“We were able to communicate with them with a little bit of pre-planning,” said Sharun. “The other objective was to build some familiarity between the two stations.”
Clifton Pinder, training coordinator for Nanaimo Search and Rescue, said the exercise allowed both units to get to know each other’s command structures.
“The greatest thing that was learned was the capabilities of each other’s teams and just getting to know the other members so there’s a more fluid response,” he said.