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Intense.

Thats how Norm Dashwood, commander of Port


Colborne Marine Auxiliary Rescue (POCOMAR) unit,
described it as a Royal Canadian Air Force CH-146
Griffon hovered within 10 metres or less of the units
main vessel, P1, Saturday afternoon on Lake Erie.

The helicopter, from 424 Transport and Rescue


Squadron at 8 Wing/CFB Trenton, had lowered two
search and rescue technicians (SAR-Tech), and a
rescue basket, to the stern of the P1 as crew
members huddled inside the rescue vessel.

The SAR-Techs then transferred a person, in the


form of a rescue mannequin, who had been in the
chilly waters of Lake Erie in the area of Mohawk
Point in Haldimand County, from the rescue vessel
up to the helicopter.

Watching the transfer as it unfolded were a host of


other vessels, including POCOMARs second rescue
vessel, P2; the Canadian Coast Guard ship Cape
Lambton out of Port Dover; a Canadian Coast guard
rigid-inflatable boat (RIB); Hamilton Beach Rescue
Unit, a Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary rescue unit
from Hamilton; and a RIB from Fort Erie Fire
Department.

Those units, along with Dirt Water Kit, a private


Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary rescue unit,
CARES (Civil Air Rescue Emergency Service)
Niagara, and an airforce CC130 Hercules plane,
were all part of an annual search and rescue
exercise (SAREX) on Lake Erie.

It was intense when the SAR-Techs were coming


down. There was a lot of wind and water being
thrown around by the helicopter. I think that we were
all just hoping that everything went safely and
smoothly and it did, said Dashwood.

He said the annual exercise is an opportunity for the


various agencies involved in search and rescue to
come together and practice in coordinated search
and rescue simulations.

For POCOMAR, this was not only a chance to


practice multi-agency activities, but also a chance to
showcase what our all-volunteer unit is capable of,
said Dashwood, who was onboard P1 during the
day-long exercise.

Things went very well for crews on both of the units


vessels, he said.

The crews worked very hard to complete our


objectives and were successful in retrieving a
simulated person-in-the-water and airlifting them to
safety.

Training with the various agencies gave rescue


crews necessary experience needed in order to work
at maximum efficiency in a real SAR scenario, said
Dashwood.
It helps eliminates the unknowns and aids in
understanding what to anticipate.

Asked how important it was to train with the military


helicopter, Dashwood said, very, because its a
dangerous activity.

A lot of things can go wrong and it's important that


we are fully-prepared and don't interfere with the
helicopter operations. That practice means that
when we have to do it during an emergency, we will
be less likely to make a mistake.

He said POCOMAR crews always learn from the


engagements during SAREX.

For example, a lot of the newer crew members


learned about how to prep our boat for a SAR-Tech
to be lowered from a helicopter and how best to
assist that tech once secured. We also learned
techniques for multi-unit shoreline searches.
POCOMARs P1 worked alongside Fort Eries
fireboat during a shoreline search in the Mohawk
Point area of the Lake Erie.

Dashwood said POCOMARs crews are always


training, ready to respond to calls on Lake Erie.

We have four rescue crews that each train one night


per week, and we sometimes do extra training on
weekends.

To date, the unit has had two calls on the lake,


Dashwood said.

Our primary vessel was out of service for two weeks


due to a catastrophic engine failure. We are fully
back in service now and look forward to a busy
season. POCOMAR is a very big part of the boating
community on eastern Lake Erie. I'm proud of our
nearly 50 volunteers and the contributions from the
community that keep our unit in service.