Port Colborne Marine Auxiliary Rescue members kept their cool, despite scorching temperatures, during a large-scale search and rescue exercise on Lake Erie recently.
SAREX 2016 saw both of POCOMAR’s vessels, P1 and P2, join up with other Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary (CCGA) and Canadian Coast Guard vessels, and air support from 424 Transport and Rescue Squadron at 8 Wing/CFB Trenton Ontario along with CARES (Civil Air Rescue Emergency Service) Niagara.
“It’s an opportunity for our volunteers to put their skills on display, and show off our high level of SAR (search and rescue) training … while taking part in mock exercises,” said POCOMAR’s executive officer Zach Walters.
Before the annual exercise started, the crew onboard P1, the Donald R. Workman, was tasked with putting out a debris field 10 kilometres south of Port Colborne for the other vessels to find.
Once underway, P1 was given a search area and pattern by the vessel in command, the Port Dover-based Canadian Coast Guard vessel Cape Rescue, and told to look for five people in the water.
Other vessels in the exercise also had search areas and patterns on the lake.
Part way through its search, P1 was given another search pattern and subsequently found one of the people in the water. The people in the water were represented by lifejackets, which had details of medical conditions the person was suffering from after being in the water a simulated amount of time. And despite the soaring temperatures on the lake, upwards of 35 Celsius, the water was still very cold.
Walters was onboard P1, and the person the crew found in the water was listed as having been in the lake for at least two hours, suffering from hypothermia, having chest pains and unable to feel their legs.
P1 was ordered to meet up with the Canadian Coast Guard ship Private Robertson V.C., a Hero-class patrol vessel often seen docked in Port Colborne, where specialists onboard would take over.
A POCOMAR volunteer, Dan Granton, was called upon to act as the victim so the two crews could do a live vessel-to-vessel transfer.
“Under the close watch of CCGA evaluators, POCOMAR members executed their duties excellently, and impressed as they completed their tasks. It is incredible how well our crews handled the tasks at hand considering the high temperatures that they were facing on the water Saturday. They were in able to work in unison, looking out for the well-being of their fellow crewmates in the extreme conditions while working diligently to complete the situations tasked to us,” said Walters.
He said many new crew members were out on the exercise.
“I believe their performance attests to the high level of training they receive on a weekly basis on their crew nights. This was a great experience for them and can only further their comfortability on the water in real emergency situations.”
POCOMAR is part of the Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary’s Central and Arctic Region covering Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and Northwest Territories, and is consistently the busiest rescue unit in the region.
The unit covers Lake Erie from the mouth of the Niagara River to the mouth of the Grand River in Haldimand County, an area of approximately 240 sq. nautical miles (432 sq. kilometers) and covers approximately 35 nautical miles (63 kilometers) of shoreline.
A video from the day