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KSAR Column of 11 November

Mercury Bay | Thu November 13, 2014

Details emerging from the recent search in the Rangihau Valley have left many volunteers and Police questioning how some day walkers can go into a challenging environment so unprepared and family so uninformed of intentions. The search, named Operation Bright, involved more than 50 search volunteers from as far as Raglan, Hamilton and Tauranga.

Resources included an Air Force Iroquois helicopter and the police Search and Rescue squad. Coromandel SAR groups from Waihi, Tairua/Pauanui, Thames, Paeroa and Kuaotunu were also involved in the search for the 51 year old Pukekohe man who had informed his wife he was going to the Kauaeranga Valley to look at kauri dams. He was expected home later the same day. The man carried a cell phone and was receiving text messages from family and Police, but ironically he had no idea how to respond to a text message.

Certainly some lessons to be learnt on ensuring the right gear and food is taken on day walks and family are fully informed of intentions.

Four new volunteers, including two Department of Conservation staff, recently joined Kuaotunu Land SAR and we had an introduction training night for them this month. Our First Response members brought along their 24 hour packs jammed full of equipment, clothing and food to ensure they are able to survive on their own in any outdoor environment for up to 24 hours. It’s certainly interesting to see the variation between the gear included in 24 hour packs, but the basic survival items remained similar. Pack weights varied from 16kg to 20kg. Our search teams at a moment’s notice may be airlifted or winched into some really rugged country and need to be well prepared for any challenge or task expected of them.

New (probationary) volunteers need to cover training in first aid, search techniques, tracking, bush survival, navigation, VHF radio communications and convince team leaders of their search and rescue competencies before they can become First Response members. This can take several months or more depending on the amount of effort they are prepared to commit to SAR and previous experience in the outdoors.

We always welcome new members to our group and like any emergency service group there is a serious side to what we do for our communities, but there is a strong emphasis on having fun too. If you don’t enjoy your volunteer work, then why would you commit to time away from your business, workplace, family or friends?

Enjoy your outdoor experiences, go prepared, stay safe and if you do get into difficulty, just stay put.

Steve Hart

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