Saturday, 25 August 2012

The Coastguard role

This week's tragic incident in the Cattle Troughs area brought the maritime rescue resources together under the coordination of the Coastguard.

The call to Portland Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre (MRCC) actually came via a member of the St Albans Coastguard team who was working close by.

Portland MRCC is staffed by full time Coastguards and is actually on Custom House Quay in Weymouth. Knowing a climber had fallen, they immediately tasked the St Albans and Swanage Coastguard Rescue Teams, both Swanage Lifeboats and scrambled the Coastguard Helicopter at Portland.

Tasking all these units would have created quite a lot of work in a very short time scale, phones calls from Coastguard Rescue Officers responding to their pagers, Lifeboat Officials calling in and the helicopter crew to brief via ARCC Kinloss.

Then follows a period of time which to those in distress seems forever, as the assets make best speed to the incident.

The climber was recovered from the water by the ILB crew and transferred to the main lifeboat where the crew performed CPR, until the helicopter arrived and lifted the male to Dorchester hospital. During this there is a steady flow of radio calls keeping Portland MRCC updated so they can alert the hospital.

Mean while the volunteer Coastguard Rescue Officers (CRO's)arrived at the top of the cliff and started to manage the situation, this included moving members of the public away from the cliff edge while the helicopter was operating. The primary role for the CRO's would be to set up their rope equipment and get a technician down to assist however events had moved on fast. With the helicopter gone and the lifeboats standing by the CRO's then started to gather all those involved and piece together what had happened. The climbers partner needed to be looked after and assisted and the recovery of any equipment took place before returned to a meeting point with the Police.

With those involved looked after by the Police, other Police Officers required to be taken back to the scene starting the next stage of the incident. This stage saw the Coastguard's protect the Police whilst they gather evidence on the cliff top. Sadly by this time we were aware the climber had passed away and after 4 hours the Coastguard got back to station to repack the equipment and debrief the incident.

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