NSW SES Alpine Search and Rescue Unit train up new crew


NSW SES Alpine Search and Rescue (ASAR) group volunteers ran a COVID-safe overnight search and survival exercise at Perisher on the weekend, 24-25 July, as part of crucial training with NSW Ambulance paramedics.

The ASAR group is made up of experienced mountaineers, ski patrollers, intensive care paramedics, ADF Veterans and wilderness survival specialists, who run the annual training course for their new members and paramedics who are new to the NSW Ambulance Alpine Program.

The group’s Operations Officer, Chris Marel, said the rapidly-changing weather systems of the alpine environment can lead to many rescue jobs for people who are not prepared.

“Last season we received a number of requests for assistance from NSW Police to locate missing persons, plus NSW Ambulance for medical-assist jobs,” Mr Marel said.

“The most common job is missing persons due to changing weather, where people are not prepared.

“A whiteout can very quickly create disorientation causing people to get lost within a matter of minutes.”

The exercise builds on the knowledge of participants, who have a basic level of experience in the alpine environment.

“This training includes travelling through the snow while searching, recognising rapidly-changing weather systems and avalanches, establishing emergency shelters and providing first aid to treat injuries and illnesses in the alpine environment,” Mr Marel said.

“On completion of the Alpine Search Operator Course, the operators will be able to participate in a range of search and rescue operations working closely with NSW Police, NSW Ambulance, Fire and Rescue NSW and National Parks & Wildlife Service.

“The rescue service is not only called upon during winter, but operates year-round, covering the whole Kosciuszko National Park.”

NSW Ambulance Duty Operations Manager, Inspector Kim Tonkin, said with more than half of their crew’s jobs on the snow and several protracted rescues a year, the training was crucial.

“Alpine Operation Paramedics provide high quality out-of-hospital treatment, alpine medical and technical services and transport throughout the Snowy Mountains,” she said.

“The SES training allows the paramedics to gain a greater understanding of the dangers and risks involved in the alpine areas and how to minimise these.”

The training also reinforced the crucial partnership between agencies.

“The importance of developing inter-agency relationships cannot be overstated in the challenging alpine environment,” she said.

“Agencies rely on each other for search and rescue jobs, and it is invaluable to understand each agency’s capabilities and roles before having to undertake a challenging rescue attempt.

“A collaborative approach ensures a better outcome, especially for the patient.”

If people are caught in a snow storm, avalanche, get lost or have an injury, call 000.

It is also important to submit a Trip Intention Form to National Parks, which may assist locating the patient quicker in an emergency. The form can be completed on the National Parks website: nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/trip-intention-form

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