East Sussex Coastguard is the ‘envy of the world’ thanks to volunteers
An East Sussex Coastguard boss has said that the service is the envy of the world due to their volunteers.
Graham Easton, senior coastal operations officer in the South East, said, “They are vital. I think we are the envy of the world in that search and rescue in this country is run by volunteers really.
“Certainly the coastguard rescue service, the RNLI mountain rescue, the cave rescue.
“The coastguard rescue team for instance are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They will give up their Christmas dinner if they need to drop everything and go out to rescue people.
“They do it and they don’t earn a huge amount of money from it clearly but they do it because they want to help people.
Mr Easton started off as a volunteer and now works full-time.
Currently 60 volunteers report to Mr Easton but this number could be increasing soon.
Mr Easton said, “All the teams generally would have between 12 and 15 volunteers so for instance we have got 10 at Eastbourne at the moment, 10 at Birling Gap. We are increasing them because they are busy, up to an influx of 15, so we are recruiting.
“We have got some people going through some new recruit training shortly and then we will recruit again for perhaps an intake in September time but directly under me as volunteers, each team is run by their own station officer who is a volunteer and a deputy station officer who is also a volunteer.”
Mr Easton believes that with the new addictions there will be 98 volunteers in Sussex with 20 in the Eastbourne area.
Volunteers are encouraged to get involved but are required to go through training to prepare for any scenario.
Mr Easton said, “Each team is trained in a number of disciplines. Clearly we work in and around the water so we have got 3,500 volunteers around the country made up from 364 trust teams, all trained in water safety and rescue.
“They operate much like the flood rescue team so working along the shoreline, entering the water, rescuing people. Our biggest role is probably searches so searching for missing people. All teams also train in enhance search techniques.
“Clearly when we find people we need to perform some sort of rescue and depending on the risk and the area because obviously at Eastbourne we have got the cliffs so the teams are trained in rope rescue.
“If you go somewhere like Selsey or out towards the Rye area the teams might be trained in mud rescue.”
“We obviously use our coastguard rescue helicopters around the country. The team are trained with them to land them, to assist the helicopters. Anything that gets washed up on the beach the team are trained in how to identify it, make it safe.”
The Coastguard need to be prepared as they can be called out for a number of different situations such as beached animals, washed up ordnances and even traffic build ups.
Mr Easton said, “A couple of years ago, although I wasn’t involved directly, we had been sent onto the M20 to deliver out water to lorries stuck on the road during operation stack.
“That was something quite strange and not something we are normally involved in. Clearly it is nowhere near the coast but as a category one emergency responder, as an emergency service, we are obliged to assist other services authorities from time to time.”
Along with the variety of training, volunteers are also prepped rigorously.
Mr Easton said, “It is fairly intensive. For instance we are just about to start a new induction training foundation course. That will involved a number of weekends to start with over a couple of months.
“We will go through all the different disciplines, all the different techniques and skills I have mentioned previously. It is a huge amount of commitment initially.
“I think it is near 200 hours and then there is on going training exercises to keep up your skills from there and as the team members get more experienced they might qualify as what we call ‘officers in charge’ or ‘search team leaders’. The training is ongoing and we train constantly really.”
To anyone thinking about volunteering with the Coastguard Mr Easton said, “It is hugely rewarding, you learn life skills. I have talked about some of the rescue skills and things like casualty care, first aid.
“I got a call from one of our volunteers last week that came across a road traffic accident out in West Sussex and they were able to assist somebody from some of the training they have received through us but the teams will become close knit and will work together.
“They do become quite close from a social point of view, not so much nowadays at the moment because you are not allowed to do that right now but it is hugely rewarding.
“Obviously if you are fit, healthy, available we want to hear from you.”