Equipped for snow searches

Myrtleford Times - - Front Page - By JUSTIN JENVEY

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.

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