3.1 General Guidance on Identifying Additional Resources

Written by David Jardine-Smith. Posted in Resources

Date Written
Wednesday, 18 February 2015
International Maritime Rescue Federation
Type of Paper
  • Guidance Paper
  • English



This paper discusses:

o   the need to identify additional SAR resources to help fill the 'capability gap'
o   possible additional search resources
o   possible additional rescue resources
o   building known local resources into the planning
o   planning generically to include resources that happen to be in the area at the time
o   planning for the potential involvement of volunteer 'non-professionals'
o   planning additional shoreside resources
o   planning additional coordination resources

1 Overview

1 Overview

1.1 For a general introduction to the IMRF's mass rescue operations (MRO) guidance, please see MRO guidance paper 1.1 'Complex incident planning – the challenge: acknowledging the problem, and mass rescue incident types'.

1.2 Guidance paper 1.4 discusses the 'capability gap' inherent in the IMO's definition of a mass rescue operation as 'characterised by the need for immediate response to large numbers of persons in distress such that the capabilities normally available to the SAR authorities are inadequate'. Guidance paper 1.4 suggests three ways of filling this gap: regional cooperation; identifying additional rescue resources; and extending the time available for rescue by supporting those in distress on scene.

1.3 The guidance papers in this section focus on these three ways of filling the capability gap, and also consider some of the funding issues inevitable to MRO planning and response. The use of regional resources is considered in guidance paper 3.2. We look at 'extending survival times' by using specialist resources, including on-board support, in guidance paper 3.3. Funding issues are discussed in guidance paper 3.4. This paper considers the most obvious means of extending rescue capability to fill the gap: identifying additional SAR resources.

2 Search, and Rescue

2 Search, and Rescue

2.1 In this guidance material we tend to focus on the rescue part of search and rescue. This is partly because the search area will be relatively small in many cases in which an MRO is required: a sinking passenger ship, for example. However, there are other scenarios in which this will not be the case.

2.2 The organisation and conduct of searches at sea are specialised subjects, well covered in the International Aeronautical and Maritime Search and Rescue (IAMSAR) Manual. The reader should refer to Volume II chapters 4 & 5 and Volume III. Guidance paper 2.5 also refers to the search aspects of an MRO.

2.3 Many of the units best-suited to searching at sea are also those best-suited to rescue operations – the retrieval of people from the scene of the emergency and their transport to a place of safety. However, by definition, there are insufficient such units available in an MRO. We should therefore consider how to find additional search and rescue units. IAMSAR Volume II chapter 1.3 also provides guidance on this.

3 Identifying Additional Search Resources

3 Identifying Additional Search Resources

3.1 The lack of sufficient designated SAR units in an MRO means that those units which are capable of carrying out rescue should be reserved for that part of the operation. Some designated SAR units that cannot rescue people – typically fixed-wing aircraft – may be required in a communications or coordination capacity, for example as Aircraft Coordinator. See guidance papers 4.5, 4.6 & 4.7.

3.2 It follows that additional search units may be required in an MRO, particularly one which involves a large search area. MRO planners and coordinators should consider the following resources in particular for this purpose:

o   aircraft incapable of carrying out rescues and not required for coordination / communication work (or capable of combining these tasks with a search function)
o   units for which it would be unduly hazardous to attempt to carry out rescue work in the prevailing conditions
o   units not required for rescue work because there are sufficient other units on scene better able to carry it out
o   for incidents close inshore, land SAR units able to see the search area.

4 Identifying Additional Rescue Facilities

4 Identifying Additional Rescue Facilities

4.1 Although there will be a search element in an MRO – and in some cases this will require major effort – the chief concern is likely to be finding sufficient rescue capacity; that is, enough units to retrieve the people in distress and transfer them to a place of safety. (See guidance papers 2.4, 2.5 , 2.6 & 2.7 for discussion of the rescue process.)

4.2 The extra rescue resource required must be identified from among units in the area which, although not designated SAR units, are still capable of carrying out rescue operations in the prevailing conditions. These units are likely to include:

o   rescue-capable military and civilian aircraft – usually helicopters fitted with winches or able to land on or low-hover to recover casualties
o   merchant shipping in the area, including ferries
o   government vessels in the area, including military, customs and border control craft
o   port and harbour authority vessels nearby
o   offshore industry support craft in the area
o   fishing vessels in the area
o   leisure vessels in the area.

4.3 These can be roughly grouped into two broad categories: units known to operate in a particular area, and units that just happen to be in the area at the time of the incident.

4.4 When vessels or rescue-capable aircraft operate in a particular area, MRO planning for that area can specifically include them. For example, where two or more ferries are working a particular route, they can support each other in the event of an emergency: they should be prepared to do so, and their capability and availability should be built into the MRO plan for that area. This capability extends beyond a ferry accident: the vessels concerned, ready to help each other, will also be ready to help in other cases. The same principle applies to offshore industry support vessels. Although they are there principally to support the offshore installations they serve, they will also be prime additional facilities for other MROs within their reach. Other vessels which operate in a specific area should also be built into the planning. If they are potentially useful resources, include them!

4.5 Other units will simply happen to be in or passing through the area when the emergency is declared. They too will be useful and should also be included in the planning but, in this case, generically. Traffic patterns should be analysed to gain an idea of the sort of resource that can generally be expected to be available.

4.6 In both cases – units that can be pre-identified, and passers-by – the crucial questions are how to alert them to the emergency and how to best use them in the MRO. The alerting process should be part of the planned MRO communications network: see guidance paper 4.9. IAMSAR Volume II chapter 1.3 discusses identification and broadcast alerting systems that should be available to the Rescue Coordination Centre. At the beginning of an MRO there will be a huge amount of information to gather and much pressure on communications systems in consequence; but finding out who is available to help with the rescue, and asking for their help, should be an early priority. For the use of both surface units and aircraft, whether designated SAR units or not, see guidance papers 4.6 & 4.7 .

4.7 A class of potential responders and rescuers that requires additional attention are the 'non-professionals', if we may call them that to distinguish them from those about whose capabilities, including communications capabilities, we can be more certain. These 'non-professionals' will chiefly be leisure craft in the area. While it is important to acknowledge that some of their crews will be highly capable, and their vessels potentially very useful, the problem for the SAR Mission Coordinator lies in not knowing whether or not this is the case, particularly in terms of crew capability. Well-meaning but inexperienced leisure boaters can put at risk their own lives, those of other rescuers, and those they are trying to save.

4.8 Guidance papers 4.44.6 discuss how such craft might be used – or not used. Here we must identify that, in some scenarios, they may represent additional rescue and/or search resource. We should also acknowledge that, where such craft are present, they are likely to respond. If an obvious incident occurs in an area busy with leisure craft, many will want to help. Means of controlling and coordinating their actions will have to be established – and communicating with some of them may be difficult. Again, see guidance papers 4.4 & 4.9 .

5 Additional Shoreside Facilities

5 Additional Shoreside Facilities

5.1 'Rescue' includes delivery to a place of safety, usually ashore. Significant measures need to be put in place at the place(s) of safety, as discussed in guidance paper 2.7 . These will include facilities such as reception centres and transport, the provision of which will be part of the MRO planning. Necessary facilities additional to those under the direct control of the emergency response authorities should be identified at the planning stage.

5.2 As noted above when discussing the offshore phase of the MRO, volunteers who were not part of the original planning may well come forward offering to assist in the shoreside response. Some will have useful capabilities; but including them in the response on an ad hoc basis involves risks, including disruption of the planned process. MRO planners should develop a policy on whether, and how, to use such volunteers, and how to communicate that policy at the time of an incident.

6 Additional Coordiantion Facilities

6 Additional Coordination Facilities

6.1 The capability gap is not necessarily restricted to the rescue itself. Maritime and shoreside emergency response coordination facilities designed and staffed for day-to-day work are likely to be inadequate in an MRO. The communications traffic in particular will be greatly increased, with more information to be gathered and exchanged and more units and organisations to talk to.

6.2 It follows that additional coordination facilities should be identified at the planning stage, both in terms of additional staff and, if necessary, equipment at the usual coordination facilities, and additional points in the coordination structure. These should include an On Scene Coordinator and, if multiple aircraft are involved, an Aircraft Coordinator, and additional coordination and communications facilities at landing sites and reception centres etc.

6.3 Key coordinators at each of these points, and especially at the main coordination centres, should be specifically trained in MRO coordination, including, of course, the local MRO plan. In some circumstances it may not be possible for the On Scene Coordinator appointed to have had this specific training; when the master of a passing ship is given the role, for example. In such cases the SAR Mission Coordinator should ensure that the On Scene Coordinator understands as much of the plan as is necessary. See guidance papers 4.1, 4.3, 4.4 4.5 & 4.8 for discussion of the various links in the coordination structure.

7 Summary

7 Summary

o   One of the ways of filling the MRO 'capability gap' is by identifying additional SAR resource.
o   We may need additional search as well as rescue facilities.
o   Units selected for search action should be unsuited for rescue work, or sufficient more capable rescue units should be available.
o   There are two broad categories of potential additional rescue facility: those that can be previously identified as likely to be in a particular area and which can therefore be specifically included in the MRO plan; and those which simply happen to be in the area when the incident occurs and which can only be included in the plan generically. The plan should include how units in both categories are to be identified and alerted.
o   Additional facilities will also be required ashore, and to supplement coordination of the MRO. These should be identified and included at the planning stage.
o   A policy should be developed and procedures agreed regarding help volunteered by 'non-professionals'.

8 Further Reading

8 Further Reading

8.1 For further reading on resourcing mass rescue operations, follow this link.

8.2 IAMSAR Volume II chapter 1.3 discusses the identification and alerting of additional SAR resources, and the reader should also consult Volume II appendix G, 'Facilities and equipment selection'. Sections G.1-4 are particularly helpful on the selection of SAR facilities for maritime MROs.

8.3 For detailed guidance on searching, the reader is referred to IAMSAR Volume II chapters 4 & 5, and Volume III.

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