Sea Rescue Magazine :: Editor's Letter
Autumn 2016
   Sea Rescue Magazine

In constructing this message I acknowledge a friend in Hout Bay who asked me a difficult question, following a very busy summer season of rescues. It expressed his concern at the seemingly silly things people do that result in them being rescued!

I’ve been in rescue for 30 years and I’ve rescued people doing the craziest of things but I’ve always tried to stick to the principles of:
a) Rescue should be free
b) Rescue without fear or favour

The free part is about making sure that there are no inhibitors for people to call for help (we’re going to great lengths to improve access through evolving systems e.g. publishing the 112 emergency number and having the SafeTrx app available for seagoers within range of a cellphone mast).

• If they delay calling it often ends up costing life or money!
• It also makes the rescue field non-competitive.

I think rescuing people is both a service and a privilege, and must be executed professionally at the highest ethical standard. The second issue is about equity and making sure that, whoever you are, you get the same response and service (the best). People do ‘crazy’ things (base jumping and so forth) and when something goes wrong we rescue them because we are professional, know what we’re doing and do the job properly; again the wrong service might cost life and money.

Allied to that we depend on donors to fund us and I think it’s expected of us to do exactly what we do. Adventure and exploration happen at many levels and without that spirit and drive we would not develop as a human race. I think we appreciate this and understand that, as rescue professionals, that’s why we’re there.

To balance the discussion I think we’re very strong on advocating prevention and a huge weight is placed on maritime safety and drowning prevention, an area where there is a massive amount to do to prevent 25 000 non-fatal and fatal drownings every year. We struggle with the authorities to implement safe regimes and we are big into the education of children but there’s a long way to go!

Our volunteers go willingly with huge passion and enthusiasm governed by a strong sense of responsibility, competence and the absolute discretion to withdraw if it’s not safe. We place huge value on the support we get and we listen closely to stake- holders at many levels – it’s a useful reflection on our rescue practice. I can only echo the mantra of our volunteers: ‘It’s who we are, it’s what we do!’

Thank you for supporting us in so many ways and for telling us when you’re happy with our service and when you’re not. The next rescue will inevitably be of better quality because you took the time to tell us and because we are a listening, learning and developmental organisation!


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