Going for a swim
Conducted by Dean Albiston, our Deputy Chairman and Ex-Police Search and Rescue and Manus Pretorius, our IT expert. The first part of the training was the cross-river training. Sounds pretty simple really, but some very clever concepts have been developed by LandSAR to ensure that any volunteers who have to cross a river during a search, do so as safely as possible. The first principle, especially if a river is in flood (which with the rain we have been having recently, is quite regular!), is to question whether it is safe to cross. “If in doubt stay out! It’s not worth your life.”
If the team decides to cross, the first step is to undo the pack chest strap, loosen the shoulder straps, and make sure the belt strap is easily accessible so if things go wrong, you can easily jettison your pack. For our training, we then linked arms behind each other’s back and the team walked across the river staying parallel with the current. This reduces the force of the water on the team members and provides everyone with support if they slip.
The final two parts of the river crossing training is how to get out of the river if things go wrong. The first option is to roll on your back and float on your pack like it is a Lilo and paddle back to shore. Your pack will float!
The second one was how to get out if you get trapped by your pack, face down in the water. This bit was quite scary! We had to completely submerge face down in the water while Dean held our packs as if they were jammed under a tree branch and then we had to undo the pack belt and exit the shoulder straps and come out from under our packs. There was a lot of coughing and spluttering after this from me!
Once we were all dry, Manus took us through our “WandaTrak” training. The WandaTrak Tracking System is used by Land Search and Rescue and NZ Police to search for people living with Dementia / Autism who regularly wander from their place of residence. It is a very clever piece of kit that tracks a radio signal on a previously issued pendant on the individual. Anyone who is issued with a pendant has their own unique signal so we can find them if they get lost.
Finally, we finished with a well-earned BBQ in the sun. All in all, a fantastic end to our training year so we are all pre-pared if anyone gets lost in the bush this Summer!
Fiona is the Group Training Officer for Kuaotunu Search and Rescue