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Personal Locator Beacons

Posted by Jo Verheijen on December 05, 2017

 

 
sing or Activating a Distress Beacon

 

Why use a distress beacon?

Distress beacons save lives - they are designed to provide your approximate location to the appropriate Rescue Coordination Centre so rescuers can be sent to assist people in distress.

In some cases the carrying of a distress beacon can be mandated under law e.g. Aircraft registered in NZ are required by the Civil Aviation Authority to carry an ELT.

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When should I use a distress beacon?

Distress beacons should only be used when there is a threat of grave an imminent danger.  In the event of an emergency, communication should first be attempted with others using radios and other signaling devices.  

Mobile phones can also be used, but should not be relied on as an emergency communication device as they may be out of range, have limited battery life, or not be suited to the environment.

A distress beacon is an emergency device to be used when assistance is required to ensure the safety of lives e.g. any life threatening situation or when a serious injury has occurred - it is not a taxi service!

Situations can deteriorate rapidly, however, if you are unsure about when to activate the beacon, it is better to activate it and get help - don't wait until it's too late!

When considering activating your beacon please remember that carrying out a rescue can be extremely dangerous not just for the casualty but for the rescuers as well, particularly if the rescue is carried out at night or in poor weather conditions.  If your situation is not life threatening and you are in a safe and secure position it may be prudent to delay activation of the beacon until daylight or the weather conditions improve.

 

Once an approximate position for the distress beacon has been established then the RCC will locate and task the closest and most suitable rescue asset to render you assistance.  

This may take the form of a LandSAR team, a rescue helicopter, a coastguard unit, a Defence Force asset or in some cases the closest vessel of opportunity.

 
 
What happens when I activate the beacon? 

On activation, your distress beacon will try to locate one of the Cospas-Sarsat satellites.  Once the satellite detects the beacon's signal it will transmit this information to the Rescue Coordination Centre (RCC) responsible for the region the beacon has been detected in.  The RCC will then try to establish the exact location of the distress beacon using information from the beacon registration.  They will also phone the contact people you have listed when the beacon was registered.

It is vitally important that the beacon owner keeps the contact details they have listed on their registration up to date as the information these people can provide on your whereabouts can prove vital in establishing your position.

 

Once an approximate position for the distress beacon has been established then the RCC will locate and task the closest and most suitable rescue asset to render you assistance.  

This may take the form of a LandSAR team, a rescue helicopter, a coastguard unit, a Defence Force asset or in some cases the closest vessel of opportunity.

 

What happens when I activate the beacon? 

On activation, your distress beacon will try to locate one of the Cospas-Sarsat satellites.  Once the satellite detects the beacon's signal it will transmit this information to the Rescue Coordination Centre (RCC) responsible for the region the beacon has been detected in.  The RCC will then try to establish the exact location of the distress beacon using information from the beacon registration.  They will also phone the contact people you have listed when the beacon was registered.

It is vitally important that the beacon owner keeps the contact details they have listed on their registration up to date as the information these people can provide on your whereabouts can prove vital in establishing your position.

 

It is really important is to stay where you are once you set off your beacon.

 

When my new skills were needed...

Posted by on November 07, 2017

When my new skills were needed...

We often receive great feedback from our course participants. This week we received an account from a recent course graduate that highlights how our courses make a difference in the real-world and have a tremendous impact on people's lives. Catherine from Auckland recently attended one of our first-aid courses. Little did she know her knowledge and skills would soon be put to the test.


"I'm writing to you to share my experience with you and couldn't thank first-training enough for making the training not only informative but very interesting.  The enthusiasm really built up my confidence to jump in and assist others without hesitation when an emergency arises...."

Catherine writes: "I had witnessed a child being struck by a vehicle while crossing the road during rush hour traffic.  Thankfully the young child [we will call Katie] had minor injuries, but this could have easily been a fatal accident."

Sadly, too many pedestrians are struck by cars. In the twelve month period between August 2016 ending August  2017 there were 37 deaths and 843 injuries involving pedestrians. This equates to approximately 10% of the over-all road toll. LTSA statistics. 

Children are at greater risk of being struck by a motor vehicle and the injuries are often very severe, particularly when the vehicle is traveling at speeds greater than 30km/hr.

"Upon arriving at the scene I met up with four other bystanders who stopped to assist.  I was the only one who had first aid training.  I delegated and got two people to call for Ambulance and Police....We made the decision to move Katie as she was responsive and was in immediate danger, it was unsafe for us to attended to her injuries...We found a safe and secure spot for Katie so that I could administer my first aid skills.  I introduced myself to the distraught mother."

Volunteering to help out at an incident like this is admirable and necessary. Training gives you the knowledge and skills to take those first steps to take control of a situation and make sure the scene is safe, prevent further injury and calling the professionals to do their job. Catherine kept her nerve, took control and made the right call to move her patient to safety. Well done. 

Catherine wasted no time taking further action. "I advised [the mother] my name was Catherine and I can help while we wait for [the ambulance]..I have attended a first-aid course."

This must have been tremendously reassuring for a distraught parent. Catherine was aware of this and handled the highly emotional situation well. "I had to get Katie's mother moved away as she was making her child anxious creating her to move.  We needed to get the bleeding under control.  Its so important to reassure the patient at all times."   

Its hard to prepare for these events. Reading a textbook or taking a class is a start but its for this reason First Training spends much of its course time presenting scenarios where participants can put into practice their skills and rehearse for the real thing. 

"I asked a bystander to assist me by supporting and immobilizing Katie's broken leg as there were obvious signs of deformity and some bluish discolouration.  I asked if she could elevate the leg slightly to try and reduce the swelling....I applied direct pressure to the wounds on Katie's face as she had two large lacerations to her face.  Applied a cold wet cloth to her chin as it had doubled in size from swelling and bruising."      

Catherine continued providing care and asking everyday questions to settle, reassure and distract Katie until St. John Paramedics arrived. "Once the paramedics arrived, we stepped aside to allow them to continue medical treatment.  I got together with our team (The bystanders) and thanked them for the assistance.  The Katie's mother came up to us, hugged us and thanked us for taking over the situation and looking out for the well-being of her daughter.  It was a positive outcome."

We agree

Catherine finished her story by praising the training she received from First Training, for this we are grateful our training prepared Catherine for the day her new skills were needed.


"...I'm a volunteer for Botany Crime Watch and having this training is beneficial for what I do as I'm able to assist our community.
Very happy and thankful to have attended your training and would highly recommend it to businesses and to anyone who is interested in learning first aid.
"

Catherine, Auckland

Check out our course options below

 

Reasons you should attend First Training's Outdoor First Aid Course.

Posted by on November 02, 2017

Reasons you should attend First Training's Outdoor First Aid Course

Providing first aid in remote settings presents a number of challenges in terms of the knowledge and skills required and the systems needed to respond to potential injuries or medical emergencies. In this first part of a two part article, we discuss and present reasons you should attend specialised training in the outdoors. If you're responsible for the care of others venturing into remote or austere environments, ask yourself this:

"Do I have the right first aid knowledge and skills for a remote setting?"

Here’s a scenario:

You’re a school teacher and this weekend, with some colleague’s you’re taking a group of teenagers on a geography field trip into a fairly remote area.  Its winter so light fades fast around 5pm. The trip is going well until one of the students slips on the track, hears a loud crack as they roll an ankle. They’re fine, but the ankle hurts and he/she can’t walk. Your group is still an hour from the hut and light is fading fast. Two of the group are getting cold while you sort the situation….

Under normal circumstances a badly sprained ankle doesn't sound like a calamity and most of us would do the usual things that make sense and we’ve been trained to do on a standard first aid course. Yes, rest the ankle, apply an ice pack, elevate the ankle and eventually get them to a medical facility for x-rays and a diagnosis.  However, as this hypothetical scenario exemplifies, the outdoor environment creates abnormal circumstances. We can see due to fading light, the distance from shelter and the fact two of the group are getting cold are compounding and contributing factors to the complexity of providing care in remote settings. Relatively minor issues can present significant challenges due to the environment, distance from normal services (like an A&E department) and uncontrollable factors such as weather, terrain and time all amplify the severity of what would otherwise be a simple matter.  There’s also the group to consider. One person injured is one too many problems, and as the above scenario highlights, more problems lay in wait if poorly planned actions are executed.

While standard first aid courses are great for the everyday world, and we recommend everybody should receive basic first aid training to be equipped for life, we ask a deeper question:

"Do standard courses adequately prepare those tasked with providing care in a remote setting for the wide range of problems that may present?" 

We propose: No. Here’s three reasons why.

  • Standard first aid courses are designed assuming emergency medical services are just a phone call away.
  • Standard first aid courses teach the responder to deal with a single patient, there is little attention paid to the knowledge, skills or equipment required to cater for the health care needs of a group in remote or potentially austere environments.
  • Standard first aid courses assumes we only need to provide care for our patients for minutes or hours versus potentially hours or days.  

"So how do you prepare effectively for deploying to a remote or austere environment with healthcare in mind?"

Providing healthcare or first aid in remote settings is sometimes an afterthought. ‘Yep, were taking to the hills, first aid kit: check.’ 

OK, having a first aid kit is a great start, however further questions need answering:

  • What’s in the first aid kit, does it cover the needs for likely events?
  • Is there enough kit to take care of the group if needed?
  • What type of environment am I going into- is mountainous or dense bush?
  • What skills and knowledge exist within the group?
  • Do any of the group of pre-existing medical conditions that may be a problem if they develop in a remote setting?
  • Do I have enough training to handle any possible situation?
  • Do I have contingency plans in plans in case of emergency?
  • How do we call for help-who do we call for help?
  • Where is the closest hospital or emergency medical service? 

In part 2 of this article, we'll provide a framework to help you answer these questions, including our recommendations around what should be in a remote setting first aid kit and methods for assessing the healthcare needs of a group.

Planning Care for Remote Settings

In general terms we can plan healthcare for our group in a remote setting checking three key areas of preparation:

Knowledge and skills: Do I have the necessary knowledge and skills?

  • We recommend everyone who ventures into the outdoors undertakes specialised outdoor first aid training.

Equipment and resources: Do I have enough equipment and resources?

  • We recommend comprehensive check-lists to aid planning to ensure the right equipment and amount of resource is deployed for the right environment. In the next part of this article we’ll provide what we believe are good examples of such check-lists.

Risks and risk treatment: Have I appreciated all risks and have plans in place to eliminate, isolate or minimise the impacts of these risks?

  • We recommend all deployment plans are assessed for all risks and plans are developed, tested and reviewed frequently before and during venturing into the outdoors.

Specialised Outdoor First Aid Training

Outdoor First Aid facilitated by First Training is a two-day course or a one-day refresher course that covers all the usual first-aid topics but the main difference is each is delivered within the context of a remote setting and the usual management plans for injuries and medical problems are extended to provide knowledge and skills on how to:

  • Manage patients for extended periods of time.
  • Assess risks 
  • Manage a group in the outdoors 
  • Handle stretchers 
  • Use EPIRB and GPS location equipment.
  • Develop solid MEDEVAC plans in case of emergencies.

"...but I've never done a first aid course before."

The course is designed to build on people’s pre-existing first aid knowledge and skills but don‘t worry, if you’ve never completed a standard first aid course, you’ll be surprised what you inherently know and understand and completion of a previous standard first aid course is not a prerequisite. All you need is the motivation to learn new things. Here’s some of the medical topics you won’t find on a standard first aid courses but are covered on an Outdoor First Aid Courses (in addition to standard first aid topics) delivered by First Training:

  • Pre-deployment risk assessment and management
  • Pre-deployment equipment
  • Use of trauma tourniquets
  • Use of haemostatic dressings (dressings impregnated with chemical to stop bleeding)
  • Management of accidental gunshot wounds (specifically hunters)
  • Use of SAM limb splints and pelvic splints
  • Preparing a helicopter landing zone for MEDEVAC
  • Managing dehydration with oral electrolyte fluids
  • Identification of toxic / poisonous NZ plants
  • Use of common over the counter medications for common conditions

Want to know more?

Arne from Hamner springs writes: "Love the hands on approach"

 

 In part two of this article we'll cover:

  • Planning healthcare needs for your group
  • What makes a good first aid kit for remote settings?
  • 5 top First Aid tips for remote settings

 

NZQA
“Waikowhai Intermediate holds camps each year and it was thought that the Outdoor First Aid course was the best for the teachers involved in this - office staff have always joined in on the Outdoor First Aid course, it seems to cover everything we need at school and more. I would definitely recommend this course, have done many over the years (refreshers) but found yesterday one of the better refreshers.”
- Jennifer, Waikowhai intermediate
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