The U.S. Coast Guard, Maui County Fire Department, Ocean Safety and Lifeguard Services, Maui County Emergency Medical Services, American Medical Response, and Maui County Police Department conducted a search and rescue exercise (SAREX) off Kapalua, Maui.
This year’s SAREX took place over two days and including a planning, safety and communication meeting, and a resource open house and full-scale open-water exercise. An Incident Command Post was established near D.T. Fleming Beach Park.
The exercise simulated a report of an overdue recreational vessel with two people in the water a mile offshore. Partners deployed and the first person, simulated with mannequins known as Oscars, was located by the Ocean Safety Jet-ski operator and brought to shore for emergency medical services drills and an airlift by the American Medical Response helicopter. The Coast Guard MH-65 Dolphin crew located the second Oscar and vectored in the Station Maui 45-foot Response Boat-Medium to recover the person from the water, then transfer to the cutter William Hart (WPC 1134) before conducting a successful hoist and delivering the simulated person to EMS onshore.
“What we gain is everything,” said Jeff Giesea, Maui County battalion chief of Ocean Safety. “You can’t expect to respond effectively to any emergency if you don’t train for that emergency. And you can’t expect to integrate well with other agencies unless you train and practice with those other agencies.”
Coast Guard assets involved in this year’s SAREX include Coast Guard Sector Honolulu Command Center personnel, Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point Dolphin helicopter and HC-130 Hercules with aircrews, Coast Guard Cutter William Hart, and Coast Guard Station Maui RB-M and 25-foot Response Boat-Small with crews.
Additional crews involved in the exercise included Maui Fire Department Rescue Boat crew, Maui Fire Department Air 1 rescue helicopter crew, Maui Fire Department Engine Company, Maui Police Department Emergency Ops and 911 Dispatch, Maui County Emergency Medical Services and American Medical Response ambulance and helicopter, and Maui County Ocean Safety and Life Guard Services Jet-ski operators.
Coast Guard Sector Honolulu personnel hold SAREX bi-annually throughout the Hawaiian Islands, which is designed to evaluate notification and response procedures and identify shortfalls in communication and coordination of response during search and rescue (SAR) incidents. Each agency holds individual capabilities that complement each other’s efforts and bolsters the overall success of the SAR system. Familiarity with processes and the people involved are critical to success.
“You learn each other’s capabilities and protocols, and we get a chance to figure out how better to integrate so we can be as functional as possible when something real goes down,” said Giesea.
The goals of the Coast Guard search and rescue program are to minimize loss of life, injury, and property loss and damage in the maritime environment, minimize the risk to responders, optimize the use of resources, and remain a leader in maritime SAR experience and effectiveness.