Tour operators, rescue service providers ready for emergencies
ZIMBABWEAN tour operators and rescue service providers are well equipped and ready to attend to any adventure related emergencies involving tourists.
This is consistent with international best practices so as to keep the country a safe tourist destination.
Tourists undertake various adventure activities such as white water rafting, bungee jumping, canoeing, gorge swing, sunset cruises, wildlife rides and game drives on the Zambezi River or in the predator infested parks where they are exposed to danger.
ACE Air and Ambulance held a two day on-field training on Monday and Tuesday to equip tour guides and paramedics on first aid, reaction time and patient handling.
The training involving ACE paramedics, Shearwater and Wild Horizon guides and Zambezi Helicopters staff, took place in the gorges where a mock helicopter evacuation was done and a patient was airlifted from rapid Number 10 followed by another imitation of a plane crash at Helipad.
On Tuesday guides were trained on how to rescue victims on the gorge swing and bungee jump.
ACE Air and Ambulance operations director Mr Mark Smythe said the training was aimed at preparing Victoria Falls for any emergency and assure tourists of their safety.
“Remember we had a tram accident two years ago, which resulted in a massive outcry from the world and we thought it is important to assess our preparedness and assure the world that Zimbabwe is a safe destination,” said Mr Smythe.
He said ACE services are accessible to any victim in tourist resorts such as Victoria Falls.
“As a certified air ambulance and part of airport disaster management team in Harare and Victoria Falls, we are required to have continuous training. Victoria Falls has gone without this kind of preparedness for many years and what we are doing here is simulating helicopter rescue from any remote area to show how safe the country is.
“Our service is not for the rich only but anyone on medical aid. However, for this tourist zone and for the image of the country we will activate the service to anyone even if they do not have medical aid cover because our objective is to attract as many people into the country as possible by assuring them of safety during their stay as we are fully equipped,” said Mr Smythe.
ACE has six doctors and 46 medics and nurses, seven road ambulances and one air ambulance fully equipped with ICU equipment that can sustain life from a distance of eight hours from a hospital, Mr Smythe said.
The company was established two years ago and serves the whole of Sadc region especially in DRC, Mozambique, Zambia, Malawi, South Africa and Zimbabwe as well as Kenya.
A sister company Halsteds Aviation Corporation provides air ambulances.
Mr James Halsteds implored the importance of communication between guides and their respective offices for swift reaction.
Rafting Association of Zimbabwe past president Mr Cephas Moyo welcomed the training as an important part of adventure activities.
“The training equips us on how to approach a helicopter, which is very dangerous equipment what to do in crisis management, handling of patients, communication skills and team leading to make sure we all do the right thing. Sometimes we have injuries while rafting and rescue always differ with case situations,” he said.
Employers’ Association of Tourism and Safari Operators president Mr Clement Mukwasi said it is every operator’s wish for Zimbabwe to remain a destination of choice.
“We are now in our high season where numbers are massive and adventure activities carry risks. As much as we have not had serious incidents lately, we need to stay prepared through upgrading training and refresher courses if this destination is to maintain its status as a preferred destination in the world,” he said.
In 2012 a tourist fell off the bridge during bungee jumping and was swiftly rescued by swift paramedics and guides while one tourist died while 20 others were injured in 2014 when a tram collided with a National Railways of Zimbabwe train. The injured were airlifted to South Africa for treatment. — @ncubeleon
Paramedics and guides attend to a patient in a mock drill
Minister Walter Chidhakwa