WSAR holds rescue exercise on Table Mountain
On Friday 26 April 2019, Wilderness Search and Rescue (WSAR) held a training exercise on the eastern side of Table Mountain at Devil’s Peak above the City of Cape Town. The objectives of the exercise were to train and maintain the currency of the WSAR rescue climbers, mountaineers, landing zone operators, medical, aviation and logistical crew, in and around the rescue helicopter. Good radio communication is an important aspect of any rescue or exercise and these skills were put to the test as well while various search and rescue techniques were honed.
An award winning city such as Cape Town and the Western Cape Province draws an increasingly higher amount of visitors to its shores. Many of these tourists go on to explore the natural beauty that is on offer, joining the expanding outdoor fraternity of Cape Town who venture into the mountains of the Cape Peninsula and beyond. WSAR in association with the Western Cape Department of Health is poised to react 24/7/365 to any wilderness emergency in the province, and exercises such as these go a long way in maintaining the quality of our responses.
The Air Mercy Service (AMS) is contracted to the Western Cape Department of Health to provide Helicopter Emergency Medical Services (HEMS) support to WSAR. The HEMS is not only one of the crucial tools that WSAR uses, it is also the most expensive and most dangerous tool as well.
The HEMS is used by WSAR to execute searches, deliver rescuers to the location of patients as well as transporting critically injured casualties to hospital. From time to time the HEMS is also used for body recoveries of people who have unfortunately succumbed to their injuries or medical conditions out in the mountains.
The “Bauman bag” is a self-contained stretcher consisting of an internal aluminium patient support platform with attachment points for rope and hoisting. It also provides protection to the patient against stones, dust and small branches etc. that may be blown around as a result of the rotorwash that is created by the HEMS. The HEMS is able to lift one patient secured in the Bauman bag as well as up to four rescuers during one short haul extraction using a line that is attached to the helicopter via the cargo hook on the belly of the aircraft.
The other method of extraction using the winch system was tested as well. It is a useful way of getting rescuers and patients in or out of a situation where a person may be stuck or injured on a ledge, for instance. This system does not require any prior set up on the ground as with the short haul method.
The crew person operating the winch sits behind the pilot on the starboard side of the HEMS and is known at the External Load Operator (ELO) who operates the winch and cable using a remote control pendant. Communication between the ELO and the pilot is crucial as the ELO becomes the eyes of the pilot who is unable to observe an extraction be it via the short haul or winch method. “Radio silence” is observed by all ground and other crew so as not to cause any interference or distraction to the air crew during this critical phase of an operation.
As always, after any rescue call or training exercise a thorough debrief is undertaken where any concerns or suggestions are taken into account. Safety is of utmost importance to the crew and this is why attention gets paid to the high standards and equipment maintenance that is observed by WSAR and it’s responders.
Source: Wilderness Search and Rescue