Safer on the high seas: agreement between sea rescue groups.

Gary Gifford (DFES-Assistant Commissioner Operations Capacity) and Roger Howell (President Metro Sea Rescue).  Picture: Martin Kennealey         d438757
Gary Gifford (DFES-Assistant Commissioner Operations Capacity) and Roger Howell (President Metro Sea Rescue). Picture: Martin Kennealey         d438757

AN agreement recently signed with the Metropolitan Volunteer Sea Rescue Group (MVSRG) is set to benefit the community, Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) operations capability assistant commissioner Gary Gifford said.

The MVSRG includes the Whitfords and Cockburn sea rescue groups.

Mr Gifford said the waterways were better protected because of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) which formalised the strong relationship between the two organisations.

“The MoU formalises that relationship and it also articulates the services and resources which both parties will provide to each other,” he said.

“The department administers a government grant for the MVSRG which helps subsidise their volunteer training, their insurance and also their operational expenses.

“On the other hand, the sea rescue group provides the expertise and the capability to perform those rescues so at the end of the day the community’s a winner.”

MVSRG president Roger Howell, who helps cover Whitfords, said their volunteers were committed and worked hard to provide the vital service 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“We’re never off the air and we wanted to show our interest is serving the community as is DFES’,” Mr Howell said.

“With this agreement, we’re now working very well together for the next three years and hopefully longer and providing the best we can to the community.”

Mr Howell said the Whitfords group alone had 124 volunteers which was the highest number they’d had.

“We have around about 300 calls a year for help and they range from a simple just broken down, run out of fuel to a couple of weeks ago a fellow had a heart attack about six miles out,” he said.

“We carry oxygen, defibrillation units, first-aid gear… the vessel I was driving at the time does about 40 knots and we got him in very quickly to the ambulance.

“We also get people who hit reef, boats sink and capsize. Between the two groups (Whitfords and Cockburn) I think there’s something like 1800 people are brought back to land a year.”

Mr Howell said the groups backed each other and they could travel as far as Two Rocks and Rockingham if support during searches was needed.

“We also do things like events, escort work for the Rottnest Channel Swim; we help a widow dispose of her husband’s ashes at sea because that person has been a fisherman for 40-50 years,” he said.

Having been involved for 22 years, Mr Howell said he knows how much is asked of their volunteers but also the rewards that come with protecting the community.

“The joy of volunteering is when someone says ‘oh boy, I’m glad to see you mate’… it makes it worthwhile,” he said.