The following comes from volunteer Marleen Kiral with RCMSAR Station 37, and is printed on Sooke PocketNews with permission of both the author and the Station 37 supervisor. If you’ve ever (or never) wondered about the rigorous training that Search and Rescue volunteers undergo, here’s a telling insider’s scoop. -spn
Re-certification self recovery and PFD competency training
–by Marleen Kiral, originally posted on Facebook on May 16, 2017
We had our annual re-certification self recovery and PFD competency training tonight. We need to do this once a year to maintain our rescue crew status.
It was set up like an obstacle course — a crew of three jump in the water together in full rescue gear and helmets (to simulate a boat accident), then have to escape from an overturned rigid-hulled inflatable boat (RHIB) by pulling yourself underneath the tubes (or in our case, an empty barrel with becket lines, fixed to the boat house), swim to the right-side-up RHIB, and do either self-recovery or a group recovery to get all crew back into the boat. Everybody had to do it twice, once in our Salus rescue vests and once in a floater suit.
The water here apparently isn’t even THAT cold but cold shock response can still happen. It took me a little while to get my breathing under control tonight, especially the first time I went in the water. Escaping from the “overturned boat” was physically not hard at all, even with the rescue gear on — but mentally a challenge for me, especially with the helmet on. It’s easy to get a bit claustrophobic under there with relatively little room to keep your face above the water. The second time it was easier.
Helping each other back into the RHIB is all stuff I’d done before, but once your limbs are cold and you’re wearing a floater suit full of water weighing you down a lot, it’s still hard.
Almost all our crew went in the water tonight and all did well – five of us even managed to get back in the boat by themselves which requires a LOT of upper body strength, I’m super proud of them!
If you’re out on the water at all, I can only recommend to do something, anything, to prepare yourself mentally for a worst case scenario. It’s only very few steps:
- Gain control of your breathing.
- Remember your equipment. (Turn on the strobe! Distress button on the radio! etc.)
- Count your crew.
- The strongest or fittest person gets back in the boat first, from there it’s “easy” (or at least doable) to recover everybody else.
Practice makes perfect — even jumping in the cold water regularly gets your body and mind used to it. But I’m glad that I won’t have to repeat this until May next year, because it was bloody cold and not at all comfortable.
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