Rat Weekend Away to the West Coast
On the weekend of the 12-13th of May a group of Rats headed to the Coast to learn more about mine and cave rescue techniques.
On Friday after work the team drove over to Greymouth and set up camp (or cabins). The cabins turned out to be a better idea than tenting due to it raining most of the night - not that we thought it would be in Greymouth.
After a fabulous pancake breakfast (and noted for next time that Deb and Andrea are great pancake makers) we set off to Ruanga to the Mine Rescue Station for an informative talk and tour of the station. Although the core environment for the rescue personnel is mines, whether it be a fire, collapse or a dangerous atmosphere situation, they may also be involved in other confined space environments such as rail tunnels. Thankfully there are not too many emergency call outs for the team which has 2 full time workers and approx 30 volunteers all of whom must maintain a rigorous training and fitness regime. The day to day work of the rescue station is training, including outside agencies and the atmosphere monitoring of mines throughout the region. The station is certainly a valuable resource for the Coast as well as the rest of NZ due to their ability to rapidly deploy via helicopter if necessary to anywhere in the country.
In the afternoon we headed to Punakaiki to meet up with the Cave SAR team up Bullock Creek Rd. This was a rigging set up exercise over a stream which disappeared 45m down into the ground. After a 10 minute walk into the bush with all the rescue gear needed we arrived at the hole. The scene is a very different one from our usual rope rescue environment so was interesting to see how other teams operate and adapt to what they have to work with. Anchors with tensioned back up anchors and directionals are the norm when there are no BFA's to be found. Gear was kept to a minimum as if you can't carry it to the scene then you can't use it. A basket stretcher with tenderer was lowered over the hole via a high line then lowered and raised again. It was an interesting exercise and although we don't always share the same names in rescue terminology we were able (eventually) to understand each other and get the job done.