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Inter-agency Search and Rescue exercise planned


Inter-agency Search and Rescue exercise planned

A live inter-agency rescue exercise (SAREX) to be held on Saturday 13 September 2008 is one of the most significant maritime exercises to be held in the Wellington area during the last decade.

A maritime emergency involving a large vessel will be simulated near the Wellington Heads with a number of search and rescue agencies asked to respond.

Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand (RCCNZ) will have responsibility for co-ordinating the SAREX, with support from Wellington Police, Coastguard, the Wellington Harbourmaster and other agencies.

Strait Shipping is supporting the SAREX.

The exercise will test rescue agencies’ ability to respond to a major maritime incident and has been designed to simulate the conditions of a real emergency as far as possible.

RCCNZ Group Manager Nigel Clifford said the exercise offered an invaluable opportunity for New Zealand search and rescue agencies to test their response capabilities, and would help identify areas for improvement.

“Rescue agencies all have plans and procedures in place to deal with a large scale emergency. This exercise offers us all a real chance to test those procedures and give everyone involved the opportunity to put their plans into practice.”

Wellington Police welcomed the opportunity to participate in the SAREX.

Senior Sergeant John Bryant, officer in charge of the Wellington Police Maritime Unit, said commercial and recreational maritime users needed to be prepared for any eventuality while on the water.

"It's not always inexperience that catches people out. You can be well equipped with life jackets, rafts, radios and flares but still get into difficulty through weather, injury or mechanical problems.”

Senior Sergeant Bryant said while maritime units would be on the water, road policing staff would be working to minimise any congestion on the roads around the eastern and southern suburbs as people try to see what is going on.

"People should not be alarmed if they see police, Coastguard and other rescue vessels and helicopters working in the area. It will all be part of the exercise.”

"Exercises like these don't happen without the goodwill of a lot of people including commercial businesses such as Strait Shipping," Senior Sergeant Bryant said.

Bruce Reid, Chief Executive Officer of Coastguard New Zealand, said exercises such as this were essential as they took the classroom learning to the water, meaning everyone was better prepared when an incident occurred.

The timing of this SAREX coincided with the annual Coastguard New Zealand conference in Wellington and maximised the opportunity for Coastguard volunteers from around the country to be involved, Mr Reid said.


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