On Friday the 7th of September a Search and Rescue (SAR) exercise was conducted along the coastline of the Northern beach of Melville Island extending seaward North of Cape Van Diemen.
The exercise involved Police Airwing, Pirlangimpi Police, and the recently established Northern Territory Emergency Service Pirlangimpi Unit (PERPS).
The exercise was conducted in areas often frequented by recreational fisherman and local community residents and was an ideal opportunity to assess response capabilities of the NTES unit in conjunction with local Police and Airwing.
A training beacon was activated by NTES members at sea West of Seagull Island at around 1:30pm. Airwing departed and conducted an initial search to home in on the beacon before returning to Pirlangimpi Airstrip where the pilots briefed local NTES members who would form part of the spotting crew on the aircraft.
The scenario had 2 vessels in distress at sea with persons on board West of Seagull Island, persons stranded on Seagull Island itself, and a further stranded party on the beach to the South West of Cape Van Diemen, with Airwing and NTES spotters tasked to firstly locate the vessels with the beacons and then conduct grid search patterns to locate the people on the beach and island. Those on land had the opportunity to discharge flares during the exercise as well as place emergency “V” Sheets in a position that would enable sighting from the air.
The exercise concluded at 4:30pm with all vessels and land based parties in distress successfully located. In total, 12 of the 17 local NTES members participated in the exercise, 2 local Police and all staff from Police Airwing.
The exercise highlighted areas that need attention, particularly communication issues via marine and land based radio systems but overall was a great success and one that highlighted to the community the capabilities of their NTES volunteer unit and their ability to effectively work with Police Airwing in a situation such as this.
The Pirlangimpi NTES Unit (PERPS) was established in 2011 and now has a volunteer establishment of 17 committed members who have been involved in marine and land based response and have been trained in Road Crash Rescue, First Aid and Small Boat Operations. The volunteers dedicate many of their personal free time to training and conducting demonstrations within the community and have proved to be a valuable asset to local Police and the Island as a whole.