PLETTENBERG BAY NEWS - Plettenberg Bay sea rescue volunteers kept the local flag flying high on an international stage when they were recognised for their innovative approach to sea rescue.
National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) Station 14 commander Marc Rodgers and coxswain Robbie Gibson attended the International Maritime Rescue Federation (IMRF) awards in London on 10 September and came second in the Innovation and Technology category for their purpose-designed rescue stretcher.
The stretcher was designed specifically for coastline rock-and-surf patient extrication due to the frequency of these types of rescues along the Plettenberg Bay coastline, paricularly the rocky stretch of the Robberg shoreline where the bulk of their rescues take place.
"Regularly, hikers in the Robberg Nature Reserve are injured on the hiking trail and need to be carried back to the parking area or extricated by sea.The latter is often the preferred method as large parts of the reserve include narrow footpaths which navigate steep rocky sections," said NSRI national spokesperson Craig Lambinon.
He added that patient extrication by sea on a rocky stretch of coast that has substantial wave action, is a specialist task that needs specialist training and equipment. "The rescue vessels of choice in this area are rigid inflatable boats and jet skis."
With this in mind, he said, the local volunteers over the past year pioneered a new design of floating stretcher that could be used over rocks and through surf to extricate an immobilised patient.
The stretcher was used operationally for the first time in April 2019. It has a number of unique features that could be utilised by other rescue services around the world including a stable platform on which a casualty can be carried over rough terrain on narrow paths with ease.
Lambinon said it does not capsize easily in the surf and can carry a backboard with a spider harness. It is also lightweight and very strong so if damaged in operation it will not fail. The stretcher is narrow so that a patient can be carried on it on narrow footpaths. Among other features are its ability to be effectively towed and the rigid base that allows CPR to be performed on it.
"To build such a craft, designs from across the world were assessed and ideas from various designs were used as well as incorporating some completely new design concepts. All of the above criteria were achieved and the final rescue platform came in at 20kg including a backboard."
The NSRI previously won the same category in 2018 for their pink rescue buoys and in 2017 they were runners-up in the team category for their water-safety education programme.
Lambinon said he is delighted that Plett station once again made the organisation proud on an international stage.
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