SAR volunteers responded to 25 ground, seven marine and one air SAR
call, 23 community service events and 73 training activities during
2002, fulfilling their motto: To Faithfully Serve. Here they practice
the procedures they would follow during a plane crash.
Photo by Hugh Wyatt
Eco-Challenge varies from country to country, but the general premise is a seven-day challenge lasting 24 hours each day. The rules state that teams are not allowed outside assistance if they want to place in the rankings. If a team loses a member due to fatigue, hypothermia or injury, they are disqualified from winning but can still complete the course.
Located at the first checkpoint, Halfway Haven, the Sault SAR team provided bearing and distance information to three teams, and sent an ATV to a fourth team who needed to be taken out.
A member of another team suffered knee injuries, and one member of another team had to be airlifted 130 km after getting a stick in the eye. Not all disqualifications resulted from injury; there were mechanical failures as well, such as a bike breaking down.
The competitors were not the only ones put to the test. Because most rescue incidents occurred at night, it was harder for Sault SAR to locate teams in the dense woods. Not only that, but the trails were not well marked and bringing an ATV down some of them could prove challenging.
This wasn't a casual effort for Sault SAR, as some of the Eco-Challenge volunteers switched shifts at work or took vacation time in order to volunteer for the event. There were approximately 20 members present at any given time, with approximately 45 members volunteering over the course of the week.
The week-long event was a great learning opportunity for Sault SAR, Mr. Jones said.
Not only was it important to see how a major incident could evolve from the challenge, but figuring out the logistics was a lesson in itself. With 500 km to cover, Mr. Jones had to make sure his team was providing support for all necessary areas, but he also had to ensure the high-risk areas received extra coverage.
Of the 41 teams who competed, the top five teams to finish were Canadian. For information on Eco-Challenge visit www.ecochallengenac.com/inside.html
by Katy Tiernan
For four seasons now, we have had the privilege of watching Mélisandre Shanks carry out patrols in the territory covered by Coast Guard 1204. In those four years she has acquired much experience, not only through training sessions held in Québec City, but also by performing a number of missions in the territory for which the Longueuil base is responsible. The territory of CG-1204 extends from the Champlain Bridge in Montréal to the town of Contrecoeur, a distance of over 28 nautical miles, not counting secondary channels. She was asked to perform a number of towing and refloating operations, as well as search for people who had fallen into the water. These operations were carried out both in the daytime and at night. She participated in two lifesaving missions in which the victims' lives were at considerable risk. This may not seem exceptional to you, given that search and rescue is our mandate, but for students in the Inshore Rescue Boat (IRB) Program, it is quite unusual to be called upon to deal with that sort of situation.
Shanks, middle, has been working with the IRB Program for four years.
Photo by M. Vidricaire, le journal de Montréal
Let us speak first about the IRB Program. Within the province of Québec, there are six bases on the Saint Lawrence River: Valleyfield, Oka, Beaconsfield, Longueuil, Sorel and Trois-Rivières. Each of these has two teams of three students, comprised of one captain and two crew members. Our primary mandate, of course, is to save lives; it is a search and rescue program. The IRB Program also plays a major role with the Office of Boating Safety (OBS) by providing preventive measures to recreational boaters and performing courtesy checks. Mélisandre started out as a crew member at the Longueuil base. In her third season, Mélisandre was moved up to the position of captain. Through her motivation, dynamic personality and professional attitude, she has developed a great deal of confidence in herself, while also showing confidence in her colleagues.
In addition to her work with the Coast Guard, Mélisandre is completing a degree in nutrition at the Université de Montréal. She also has a passion for first aid. She has been giving first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation courses since she was eighteen years old, and is constantly pursuing professional development through courses such as First Response, among others. She developed this interest very early in her life; at the age of twelve she was already taking first aid and lifesaving courses. That is undoubtedly when she developed a wish to become an emergency physician.
When she is teaching, Mélisandre often talks about her experiences conducting missions on CG-1204. The first incident in which Mélisandre needed to call upon her wide range of knowledge occurred during her second year in the program, when she was a crew member. She still did not know how she would react in a pressure situation, when people's lives were at stake, but any doubts were quickly erased. On August 16, 2001, the crew of CG-1204 arrived at the Longueuil base at 2:00 p.m. and began their one-week shift (our weeks start on Thursday and end on Wednesday evening). Barely 15 minutes later, the Rescue Centre called the CG-1204 crew; a rowboat had capsized in the south channel close to the Jacques-Cartier Bridge and two people were in the water. The crew took action immediately and, five minutes later, Mélisandre saw the two men in the water, bleeding profusely from the head. For this rescue mission, the crew of CG-1204 B received official recognition for a commendable operation. Thanks to their quick response and Mélisandre's care, the two men are still alive today. One of them travelled to meet her the following year. After that mission, Mélisandre not only knew that she had completely assimilated the knowledge that she had acquired over the years, but also that she would remain cool and calm in stressful situations.
The following year, in her first season as captain, Mélisandre had a very eventful summer. Our most important mission (I was a member of her crew at the time) occurred on July 1, 2002. There were a lot of pleasure craft in the Port of Montréal and the Rescue Centre called us regarding a man with injuries in the south channel. When we arrived at the site, a man was in the water and appeared to be unconscious. Beside him was a deflated inner tube. The captain of the speedboat informed us that the man had been on the inner tube and had hit the rocks. The man was in cardiorespiratory arrest. After taking the victim aboard, Mélisandre performed cardiorespiratory resuscitation with the help of ambulance attendants. Unfortunately, the man did not recover. He suffered from a number of cranial traumas and was undoubtedly killed on impact. The media was very interested in this story, and Mélisandre gave a number of interviews. Of course we all questioned ourselves after this mission, but there was no doubt that we had done a good job in carrying out our work.
In her fourth season, Mélisandre is completing her work with the Canadian Coast Guard. She gave us four great years full of memorable moments, and it is not over yet. Indeed, if she begins her PhD in medicine, as she wants to do, she will remain with the IRB Program for a few more years.
Katy Tiernan is a crew member of CG-1204B
perfect recruiting grounds
Growing up in Halifax, Peter has always spent time on the water, first with his grandfather and then at the age of 12 when he took sailing lessons. He then taught sailing for four years, raced yachts and was a deckhand on the Bluenose II.
With all that nautical experience, Peter won a job as crew with the IRB Program based in Mahone Bay where he worked as a coxswain while completing both Bachelor's and Masters' Degrees.
After having spent virtually all his life on the water, and four years with the IRB Program, he couldn't see himself in an office, so Peter delayed taking a job after graduation. As luck would have it, he soon found himself part of the Federal Government's Management Trainee Program (MTP).
Although his first position out of the program wasn't with Coast Guard, two years later it happened and now he is OBS Superintendent for Central and Arctic Region.
While the MTP helped Peter in his career aspirations, he says "the IRB Program is the perfect recruiting ground for exceptional people for the Canadian Coast Guard."