Monday, 31 March 2008

New Helicopter

The new helicopters have arrived in the area (Lee on Solent) however the aircraft and the crews are training so they aren't operational for search and rescue just yet.

Saturday, 29 March 2008

International Distress Signals

Going on from the 100 years of SOS, there are other signals people can use, these are :

A distress signal should only be when an individual, group of people, a ship, aircraft or other veseel is threatened by grave and imminent danger and requests immediate help.

Using a distress signal under any other circumstances endangers life and be against the law.

Friday, 28 March 2008

... ---... ...---... ...---... ...---...

100 years ago the international recognized "signal" of SOS was born and since then it has saved many lives.

This month the Royal Mail produced 6 stamps to mark the 100 years of Rescue at sea and the SOS signal, each stamp has the interrupted perforations
of ... ---... around the edges.

The 6 stamps:

The Rescue helicopter at Portland

The Rescue helicopter at Lee on Solent

The Severn Lifeboat at Barra

The Mersey Lifeboat at Appledore

The ILB at St Ives

The Tamar Lifeboat at Tenby

I have read somewhere that the RNLI are also selling these stamps and some of the proceeds are going to building a memorial at Poole for the crews lost at sea (perhaps someone can confirm this?).

A nice and fitting tribute to all those who save lives at sea.

Thursday, 27 March 2008

When should you call the Coastguard

Last nights search for an overdue walker was a classic example of when to call the Coastguard.

In summary two brothers out walking from Lulworth to Swanage, in the afternoon they decide to take different routes and agree to meet at a local pub. Having waited 3 hours one brother still can not get in touch with the other so decides its time for help......called us, off we went and thankfully found the him very quickly.

When we reunited the pair they were very sorry for causing so many problems.....problem ? "this is not a problem" I said, " the earlier we get called the better, we can soon all go home quickly knowing the person is safe and well."

Over the years lots of people have said we were never sure when to call you, the advice is simple.... the moment you have concern call us let us be the judge and put the resources into the incident, don't worry about putting people out or the cost (we don't send bills!), get us on the way, it may save a life.

Wednesday, 26 March 2008

New Technicians

With the new cliff equipment there are 3 roles for the team members.

1) Operations - the members on the top of the cliff setting up and handling the equipment,

2) Technician - the person going over the cliff,

3) Officer in Charge - as it says on the packet!

After nearly 42 hours of training Messrs Brown,Rockett,Bentham and Lacey got authorised by the Sector Manager in all 3 roles and this takes the team into the final stages of using this new equipment.

Last night saw us start at 6pm carrying out just about every possible situation and set up you can have, there was a slight delay as I was being winched up the cliff the team disappeared to deal with an incident ! however it was soon back to complete the question side of the assessment finishing at 11pm.

The final stage will require a couple more of the team assessed for the operations role and then we will finally move over to the new equipment........but it doesnt stop then as we have to requalify every three years in each of the roles and bring some of the others up to technician level.

Monday, 24 March 2008

What a strange weekend

So that was Easter, cold, wet and thankfully not a lot happened in our patch.

Last night our colleagues down in Weymouth (Wyke team) were busy after a male drove his car over cliffs, luckily he fell about 30ft and following a joint effort between Coastguard, Police and Fire he was safely recovered (not sure about the car yet!)

Today's patrol included the usual trip to Middle Beach Cafe at Studland.

Paul and Elaine do look after us well in there and we are very grateful for their support. What is nice is we are able to have a hot drink and still monitor the bay from the cafe windows, it also allows the public to ask those important questions.

Tomorrow is assessment day for the team with respect to the new cliff equipment, so we will let you know how we have done.

Saturday, 22 March 2008

Bang on Easter

Easter Saturday, cold and windy with a few sleet showers just what we needed for a holiday weekend.

Swanage Lifeboat had been out down to Chapmans Pool to deal with a yacht hard aground, watched by the St Albans Coastguard team.

Poole Lifeboat had been out to assist an adult and several children in a small boat being blown out to sea.

The Patrol set out and immediately liaised with the air ambulance crew who had landed up at the recycling centre, they had been stood down so no assistance required so the patrol went on its way only to find the Police at Studland dealing with an exploded bomb.
During the war and in preparation for the D Day landings in Normandy, Studland was used a huge exercise area, tons and tons of explosives where dropped or fired...the rest as they say is history.

Despite many years of clearance, items are still turning up and due to their age they have to be treated with even more caution and usually items are destroyed on site rather than being taken away.

Thankful our Bomb Disposal Teams are at hand to deal with these items, highly skilled military personel who know when a piece of rusty metal is in fact a piece of high explosive!

Our role in all this is to place a safety cordon around the area to ensure the public stay away whilst the detonation takes place.

After a count down, a press of a button, a bang it was all over. A piece of ordnance that had laid undisturbed for 60 years final was made safe. I understand this was a rocket probably fired from a landing craft.

Friday, 21 March 2008

The wrong sort of sea weed!

On the news this morning, they were reporting travel problems on the railways and road, little did I expect to get a phone this morning from the patrol asking for a spade as they had encountered their own travel problems.....a patch of sea weed!
Having patrolled the beach they were about to leave via middle beach and came across a patch of this evil weed. Normally being careful you are over it and up the slope, sadly this time it got the better of the heavy vehicle and before they sunk down, they requested the spade (which should have been in the vehicle!).

Having dug around and cleared the weed a very friendly "Derek" from the National Trust brought his tractor down and gave a helpful tug out to stop the weed taking its toil again!

A cup of coffee at the Middle Beach Cafe, some standard jokes and of course the all important "what lessons have been learnt" and the chaps (who I shall refrain from naming) returned to the station to start cleaning !

What was I saying about 18 hours to look after the equipment and putting the spade in!!

Thursday, 20 March 2008

Care of Equipment

Every month the team gets 18 hours to clean, check and ensure the equipment is ready for the incidents its designed for.

There is about two hundred pieces of "kit" to check from life jackets to the vehicle and as you might guess after a muddy job those 18 hours soon disappear!

The Easter weekend is an unofficial start date for the "Rescue season" (Easter to September) so the team have been busy just ensuring everything is ready to go if required.

Did someone mention snow on the way? Better put the spade in!

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

That takes the biscuit!

Last night (Monday) saw the team training on the new cliff rescue equipment; a dress rehearsal for our official safety assessment early next week. The training went really well and it’s fair to saying that everyone’s hard work over the last few weeks appears to have paid off. We’re actually looking forward to the assessment and to working with the new kit.

Including the new Petzl ID below:- an explanation another time.

A few ‘Z drags’, and ‘tugger recoveries’ later we retired to the CRE (Station) to debrief over a warm cuppa….and some biscuits.

Now biscuits are a real treat for us Coastguard Rescue Officers and due to our hard work the boss let us have two packs. (not each you understand…to share!). Much like a BBC Cameraman filming a wildebeest at the watering hole your intrepid reporter managed to capture a rare photo of DSO Austen ‘dunking’, while Brian attempted to work out how to open the next packet; just look at their concentration.

Moments after this was taken Austen motioned to the cameramen using ’international sign language’ that he was about to eat another two biscuits. Well I think that’s what he meant?

Monday, 17 March 2008

"Dope on the Rope"

Why anyone volunteers to dangle off two pieces of rope has always interested me, however we do anything from 20 metres to 250 metres.

However we all put our trust into the equipment and our colleagues, the ropes has a 3000kg breaking strain, so with two ropes it should be OK, watching of course for sharp edges.

1st of all its that all important attaching the ropes to the harness.

Then, lots of checks, before Officer in Charge gives the OK to send the "Technician" over

Norman, can you leave the mud at the bottom next time.

Sunday, 16 March 2008

Your not from round here are you?

Today saw the next stage in our new cliff training with the "Technician" stage. The term technician replaces the"Cliffman" or in simple terms the person who physically goes over the cliff to perform a rescue. More on this in the next few days.

It was decided to get four technicians from the three cliff teams in the area to start training together, so we were joined not only from our colleagues from St Albans, but also Southbourne.

Phil, Norman, Bob and Andy don't get out very often and a trip to the Purbecks was a welcome holiday to see some real cliffs (only joking chaps).

Saturday, 15 March 2008

A Rather Blustery Day

A wet and windy Saturday afternoon saw the paring of Thompson/Kitching (aka The Dream Team) out on Local Patrol.

The Patrol went people spotting on Studland Beach; a grand total of 14 people were seen, and three dogs (one poodle). I am advised, however, that the Poodle was very big. Thanks chaps but it’s hardly a minor incident….and if was so amazingly big why did you not take a picture for the Blog?

According to them it was bigger than a bus…but with no photo I’ve had to improvise. Please see photo mock up of Poodle, on Beach with London bus to scale.

On a more serious point, no dangerous items appeared to have been washed up on the beaches in the last week’s storms.

Friday, 14 March 2008

Do as I say (not as I do!)

Last Sunday whilst sitting in a Travel Lodge on the M2, my mobile rang and a lady said
"Hello this is original Wave 105, could we ask you a few questions about the weather that is about to hit the UK?"

"Whats your advice to people using the water tomorrow"

I suggest everyone listens to the weather reports and takes the advice given by the Met office, people should avoid using small boats and certainly contact the Coastguard Operations rooms for further advice should you need to use a boat

"OK, does this sort of weather happen often?"

(Slight panic as I had not read an in depth forecast so wasn't 100% sure what we were about to get), my answer was along the lines of we do get storms and a couple of large ones in the year, but as long as people follow the advice they should remain safe.

"Anything further"

Basic advice was to stay clear from the coast tomorrow as the waves are fore casted to be large and dangerous to coastal users, sea defences were expected to be breached in places, so stay clear of sea walls etc.

What I didn't say was the reason I was on the M2. In the morning we were due to cross the Channel to France....yes the very person stating we should all avoid the sea was himself about to hit the water, however in my defence I was going on a 26433 ton car ferry not a small vessel and at the end of the day, the decision to sail was not mine!.

So off we set, the weather was certainly wet and windy, the Pride of Calais arrived and took 45 minutes to turn around and dock in the harbour, using her anchor and tug...things not looking good.
The wind was gusting at 55 knots, the port was closed.....

Being a Coastguard has its advantages sometimes, a phone call home and we hear there is a clear spell of weather on the way.....clearly the Captain also heard and took advantage as he decided to load his vessel and some two hours later left, one of the only ferries to leave Dover that day.

Mid Channel other vessels found it tough.

Behind this wall of water was a giant tanker

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

S92 Helicopter

S92 Helicopter
Right... lets see if this works... the Blog's first video snippet

Tuesday, 11 March 2008

Citizen Day!

Thanks to Austen (DSO) and Tom who took time off work yesterday to attend Sandford Middle School’s Year 5 Citizen Day. A number of other emergency services including the Police, Fire Service, Ambulance and RNLI were in attendance.

The children took part in a number of real life situations, including practise phoning for an ambulance, reporting a crime, and even had a look at some first aid. Austen and Tom were there to promote beach safety and awareness through the MCA’s SeaSmart campaign.

Obviously highlights for the kids were the flashing blue lights and sirens on the Coastguard Rescue Vehicle! We like them too!

I’m told a good day was had by all with everyone going home with SeaSmart bag including a pen and key ring!

Monday, 10 March 2008

Storm in a Teacup?

Call that a Storm! It was flat calm in the bay at 17:00, although there was some decent surf over the Ledges at Peveril Point.

In Swanage we appear to have weathered this storm well, although a major rescue is still underway near Selsey.

MCA News feed:-“Coastguards, Police, fire service and other emergency crews are currently on scene at Selsey searching for people who could be in the water or trapped in caravans after sea defences were breached. Approximately thirty people are being evacuated from Selsey West Sands Caravan Park by Coastguards, Fire and Rescue Officers and the Selsey RNLI Inshore lifeboat. None of the evacuees are in the water.

The Coastguard Operations Room at Lee on Solent received a call from one of its Coastguard Rescue Team members at 1.00 pm this afternoon reporting that the defences had been breached at the Caravan Park where 2,200 caravans are sited. The Selsey Coastguard Rescue Team, the Coastguard Rescue helicopter Mike Uniform, Sussex Police, West Sussex Fire and Rescue, the Fire and Rescue boat, South east Coast Ambulance and Selsey Inshore Lifeboat are all on scene and involved in the operation.”

A real multi agency rescue, well done chaps.

Meanwhile down at the Pierhead Cafe, the venue that likes to pride itself as being a ‘Stones throw’ from the beach!

…..tomorrow DSO Austen goes back to school.

Sunday, 9 March 2008

New Station

How's the new station going?

Umm, here’s a photo of the work so far! Yes it’s still a car park!

And from another angle.......still a car park!

We're waiting on the builder's tenders before starting in April; should be an easy build (he says!) so the car park will be free for the summer visitors.

Saturday, 8 March 2008

A rumour

The other day my daughter returned home from school saying did I know a plane had crashed in Swanage Bay?

Now being a Coastguard and working for another Emergency Service, I had a two second panic that "one had slipped under the radar", and for some reason I had missed it, but reassured her that nothing had happened to my knowledge.

Nothing further was said on the subject, until yesterday when my wife's hairdresser asked what had happened in the bay the other day with the plane crash?!!!!!. The "story" is a fleet of ambulances and other emergency service vehicles were seen on the sea front dealing with this incident.

So, I have checked the Coastguard records, liaised with the Police and Ambulance and no one seems to know anything about this incident, have we missed something?????

I do like Swanage and the rumour mill, but on a serious note it perhaps reminds us of a couple of things:

1) If you see anything unusual, please report it to the emergency services, we would rather check it out then pick up a tragedy a few days later as no one reported it.

2) Rumours can cause all sorts of problems, and its amazing how quickly they get out of hand, we do our best to keep everyone informed but you can always ask.

Friday, 7 March 2008

Road Block!

Someone’s gone and dug up the High Street!

Now it’s not a massive problem given there is another route to the Coastguard Station or CRE (Coastguard Rescue Equipment) as we call it, but currently this is adding about 2 minutes to our journey. If the emergency is on the north side of town we have to retrace our journey adding a further 2 minutes to our response times.

Still the work is necessary and only due to continue for another week or so.

Thursday, 6 March 2008

A little bit of confusion

This morning when I turned the television on, the news started saying the Coastguard were on strike and then throughout the day the various pictures the media showed must have really confused the public who was actually on strike.
So here is a little guide to help those slightly confused.

NO - The RNLI is a charity, who's crews are volunteers, other than being called by the Coastguard to maritime
incidents there is no connection to the MCA.

NO - Coastguard Rescue Teams, we are volunteers as well, although we are part of the MCA (Coastguards) this dispute has nothing to do with us and we remain on call.

NO - Coastguard, RN and RAF helicopters have remained on call, Coastguard helicopters are under contract from Bristows and CHC the crews are not Coastguard Officers.

YES - The staff in the Operations Rooms (19 of them around the country) and some staff at the HQ in Southampton were the ones on strike.

Wednesday, 5 March 2008

A sad day

Tomorrow (6th March) at 07.00am union members of the PCS working in the 19 Rescue Centres around the country will walkout in a dispute over their pay. This walkout will last for 24 hours and is the first strike ever to affect the Coastguard Service.

The decision by the staff has not come easily and comes after two years of talks, which has seen little progress.
Basically most staff in the centres are paid £4000 less than colleagues in the other emergency services, some only just scrape in over the national minimum wage. These staff work 12 hour shifts and at times the work is highly pressured, for example a mayday or a 999 call or even running an incident like the Napoli!

The industrial action only affects the rescue centres, COASTGUARD RESCUE TEAMS will still be on call as will our colleagues in the Lifeboats and helicopters.
Locally we have plans in place to liaise together should anyone require us, so the public should continue to use the 999 system in the normal way, your call will be directed to a special centre and answered by Coastguards who will pass it on to local teams to deal with.

We all hope that this action will be resolved as soon as possible with all parties getting around the table again soon.


Tuesday, 4 March 2008

Guest Writer

Thank you to Gareth for writing the last few posts, which gave me a couple of days off. Gareth is our newest team member and settling in well.

It takes about two years to become fully proficient as a Coastguard Rescue Officer (CRO) and this includes the full range of tasks that we perform, from driving to rope work.

But with all new recruits we like to keep them in the dark sometimes!

Sunday, 2 March 2008

Whether the Weather's good?

Sunday, and it’s a bit more overcast in Swanage.

Did you know Swanage has its own weather station? Well actually we have two! The first is located near Sandpit Field and used by the Met Office for their forecasts.

The other is located at the Swanage NCI Coastwatch Hut - "The Lookout" at Peveril Point and was installed in 2007 by Purbeck District Council in partnership with The National Coastwatch volunteers, Swanage Sailing Club, and Swanage Sea Rowing Club.

The great thing about this one is it displays the data live on the internet!

Weather Display Live

So if you’re planning on a walk or other leisure activity click on the above link for up to date weather info.

Whether the weather be hot,
or whether the weather be not,
we'll weather the weather, whatever the weather,
Whether we like it or not!

Saturday, 1 March 2008

Snakes Alive!

European Adder- Vipera berus

Nice day in Swanage today for a spot of sunbathing!

We spotted these up a Durlston Country Park this afternoon; looks like they’re getting frisky! Perhaps some additions (gettit) later in the summer!

‘Generally speaking, this is not an aggressive species, tending to be rather timid and biting only when cornered or alarmed. Many people are only bitten after stepping on them. They will usually disappear into the undergrowth at a hint of any danger, but will return once all is quiet, often to the same spot.

Relatively speaking, bites from this species are not highly dangerous. In the UK there have been only 14 known fatalities since 1876; the last a 5-year-old child in 1975. Domestic animals and livestock are more frequent victims.’ (Wikipedia)

Advice: If you leave them alone, they will leave you alone. (They are a protected species too!) If however you, or the dog, are unlucky enough to be bitten, seek medical or veterinary advice.

What does an exhibitionistic snake wear to the beach? A pythong