On Sunday 31st August, SkyWatch NI undertook a days training with the North West Mountain Rescue Team (NWMRT) on Slieveanorra in County Antrim.
Beginning at 10am under blue skies and light winds we spent the morning discussing a range of protocols for search, communication and interoperability followed by equipment familiarisation.
This led to a number of agreements on procedure, particularly in relation to search, scene management and communication procedures, ensuring a faster, more coordinated approach during real incidents. It also gave both teams an opportunity to meet each other and understand each others capabilities and limitations.
Following a quick lunch on the mountainside we began a search within the designated area based on a mock missing persons’ profile. While the NWMRT utilised their strength in numbers and profile based search techniques, SkyWatch undertook wide area and inaccessible area searches using the quadcopter.
As the afternoon progressed the NWMRT found the first of the two missing people and provided a team to extract them by stretcher back to their awaiting vehicles. The second missing person was then spotted by the quadcopter operator within a sunken gulley, in the boggy and challenging ground cover. While the visibility remained excellent throughout the day, wind sheer on the lee side of the mountain pushed both the quadcopter and operator to their limit with the unit flying over 60º horizontally into the wind to maintain stability while still recording an excellent image.
With the second person identified, the NWMRT then provided personnel for the medical assistance and recovery of the individual.
Overall the day highlighted a number of operating procedures which benefited from refinement, some clear decisions on protocol and the ease and professionalism of working with the NWMRT who facilitated the days’ training.
It also highlighted the immediate need for a SkyWatch command vehicle for the radio control officer, battery charging stations and video analysis. Currently this is provided through the donation of volunteers’ own vehicles and equipment.
You can find out more about the North West Mountain Rescue Team on their website.