Equipped for snow searches
A GROUP of State Emergency Service (SES) volunteers from Bright have recently completed Alpine Search and Survival (ASaS) training.
The training allows members to undertake search and rescues in the snow and to camp out overnight in conditions rather than having to return to accommodation within resort boundaries.
Five SES members from Bright along with two each from Beechworth and Tallangatta and a member of the Falls Creek CFA undertook two days of practical training at Mt Hotham on July 28 and 29.
Marcus Warner was one of four from the Bright unit to gain their Alpine Search and Survival accreditation while the fifth member completed skills maintenance.
“It’s becoming very evident that going outside resort boundaries for backcountry pursuits is becoming more trendy so there is a need for more emergency service personnel to be trained in ASaS,” Mr Warner said.
“I think there have been five major events in the past four years that have required a major search in the snow so it’s not our normal bread and butter like rescuing paragliders, attending road crashes or flood and storm events - it’s a very specialist skill.”
Prior to their practical assessment the SES volunteers and CFA member completed a written exam that covered things like assessing weather conditions and understanding avalanche equipment and search techniques.
Their two days of practicing search and rescue techniques in the snow required members to erect shelters, dig snow caves within a short time-frame and rig up a system to pull stretchers through the snow.
Mr Warner said the volunteers experienced some of the most extreme conditions during their practical training.
“It was absolutely crazy weather on the Sunday from rain and hail to snow and a blizzard, Mother Nature threw it all at us,” he said.
“The training officer said if it had just been a normal training exercise we would have bailed early but the conditions were ones which we might be asked to go out in so we were made to tough it out.
“On the Sunday morning we were given a scenario where two people had wandered off in the night and hadn’t returned.
“We had to locate them and on finding them one was quite a badly hurt so we had to put them in an emergency shelter and then drag them back to Mt Loch carpark in a sled.
“It took us four and a half hours to make our way back in blizzard conditions so it certainly tested all our gear and also our own teamwork.”
Mr Warner said the unit had been called to one search this year when a man became lost while walking from Mt Hotham to Dinner Plain.
He was found within a few of hours of being reported missing by concerned friends.
Mr Warner said people heading outside resort boundaries need to be prepared and carry with them the right equipment and if they get lost in bad weather to stay put and seek shelter to avoid the elements.
“We also recommend that people download the Emergency+ app on their phones which gives emergency services critical location details when you call Triple Zero,” he said.
NEW SKILLS: SES volunteers from Bright and two other units along with a member of the CFA completed specialist snow training recently.