Friday, March 18, 2011

Rescue Specialists

Danish navy rescue swimmers from a danish insp...Image via Wikipedia

Extensive training and a dedication to saving lives and relieving suffering are keys to being a rescue specialist.

When many people think of Coast Guard, they think of high profile jobs like the rescue specialists.

You can find rescue specialists aboard Coast Guard vessels and at shore-based stations, and unless you're in need of their services, you might not be able to tell them from other crew members. There are about 70 active rescue specialists in the Pacific Region, most of them coming from the ranks of the deck crews.

There is a reason for this. "Deck crews are the constant. They are found among all units," said Bob Ayres, Coast Guard Rescue Specialist Coordinator. "We need this capability on all vessels." To become a rescue specialist, crew members must undergo some intense training.

Rescue specialists are trained and certified to Medic A standards. This means they are capable of performing first aid to the level of St. John Ambulance Advanced Level II, including cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). "Our rescue specialists are trained to a national standard similar to Industrial First Aid," said Bob."Plus they have an additional week of training, authorized by Health Canada, which includes the use of nitrous oxide, advanced hypothermia treatment, and spinal immobilization skills."

But what good would these skills be if the rescue specialists couldn't reach people in need? "That's why they also undergo a week of advanced training in the operation of rigid hull inflatable fast rescue craft," Bob said. "This includes trials in heavy seas and under all sorts of adverse conditions, with attention to concepts of scene assessment, risk management and leadership."

Adverse conditions are part of the job for rescue specialists, and Coast Guard prepares them through training and by encouraging versatility. "We try to encourage our people not to be too rigid in their thinking,' Bob said. "It's never like a textbook out there. They have to be flexible."

In addition to the first aid knowledge, rescue specialists maintain the rescue and first aid equipment on board Coast Guard vessels' stations. A optional component of the Rescue Specialist Program is the training of ocean rescue swimmers to provide assistance to people in the water. Rescue specialist training can involve physically rigorous tasks.

They perform fire fighting and damage control duties, and they conduct triage and disaster scene management at the site of major marine disasters. They assess diving related injuries and perform field treatment. Finally, the rescue specialists communicate with other professionals involved in the rescue to make sure they have full understanding of the extent of the victim’s injuries, and in some cases perform medical acts on a physician's order.

"One standard we have is to not turn a casualty over to a lower level of training," said Bob. "In fact, we often assist BC Ambulance in medical evacuations of injured people in remote areas."

What is the major injury rescue specialists face?

"Without a doubt-hypothermia," said Bob. "Due to the cold waters on our coast we have adapted specialized equipment, including inhalation re-warming units, known as the Res-Q-Air, to stabilize and begin warming in the field" Not every specialist goes on a rescue every day. In fact, some specialists may go on rescues only a few times a year.

The station-based rescuers may go out more frequently," said Bob, "but when patrolling vessel out in rough seas gets a call it is often a more dangerous rescue."

All rescue specialists provide regular first aid to their co-workers on board, a vessel. Nobody wants to meet one of these Coast Guard members under working conditions. That could mean, of course that you require rescue. But if it ever happens be confident the person rescuing you is a true, dedicated specialist.

Thanks to NICK NILSEN and Shorelines

Kathy Dowsett
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