Friday, 30 June 2017

The Show Must Go On

At 9.00pm this evening, Portland SAR Helicopter base will close its doors one final time and decades of SAR operations from Portland will come to an end.

You will read in the local press all about the rescues that the flight has performed in its time, you will read about the professionalism of the crews and you will read that SAR operations will be hampered by this move.

Rescue 106 from Portland lowers its paramedic winchman near Anvil Point, Oct 2016
We would echo the praise that has been heaped on the crews over the years, and it has been a pleasure to work with them all. However, its worth setting the record straight how incidents will be managed in Swanage from now on.

Firstly, we will still have helicopter cover.  The nearest helicopter will come from Lee on Solent where there has been a base for many years and with whom we have worked many times. In fact, Lee on Solent has recently upgraded from an AW139 which it has used for around 10 years to a larger, faster AW189 which is on call 24/7.  Portland only ever operated during the day, and not at night. At busy times back up will be provided by HM Coastguard helicopters from Cardiff or Newquay.

Rescue 104 from Lee on Solent working with the team near Langton Matravers, Sep 2016

Secondly, as a Coastguard Rescue Team we are aware that we may be called to carry out more cliff rescues than before - that's fine - that's what we train for!  In the last 6 months alone we have rescued 5 people and a dog from over cliffs, so we know the ropes if you'll excuse the pun.  Earlier this month, four of our cliff technicians spent a day training on more tricky scenarios than we'd usually train for, just to push our skill levels that bit higher.  We're a volunteer team, but we are on call 24/7.

 Coastguard recovery of an unconscious climber hanging in his harness - training exercise, June 2016

Finally, Swanage RNLI took delivery of  brand new boat last year - a Shannon class which can operate at twice the speed and over twice the range of the Mersey class it replaced, giving an excellent on the water rescue capability. There's also an inshore 'D-class' boat at Swanage so we are well catered for there.

Shannon Class 13-13 'George Thomas Lacy' arrived in Swanage in April 2016

All of this is backed up by the watchful eyes of the National Coastwatch Institute volunteers who monitor the bay and passing vessels from dawn to dusk.
Members of our Coastguard Team at the NCI's Coastwatch Lookout getting 'eyes on'.

Working together - CG Helicopter, Coastguard Rescue Service, RNLI and Police at Studland, August 2016

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