Saturday, November 07, 2009

Cold Water Rescue

Quite often, Wayne and I hear the Canadian Forces helicopters working in the lower part of Powell Lake. They usually stay south of our cabin in Hole in the Wall, so we can only hear them. But on a recent trip to John's cabin we saw them in action.

CFB (Canadian Forces Base) Comox is just across the Strait of Georgia from Powell River.
Comox is the location of the Canadian Forces School of Search and Rescue, where all para-rescue specialists in the Canadian Forces, known as Search And Rescue Technicians or "SAR Techs" undergo training. This time of year they must be practicing cold water rescue techniques.

The large CH-149 Cormorant Helicopters can carry a crew of 5 and up to 45 standing, 30 seated or 16 stretchers with medics. They have a range of 863 miles or 1389 kilometres. That makes them a good rescue platform here along the cold, western coastline.

During practice, the helicopter hovers over the cold waters of Powell Lake. Then a rescue trainee rides a long cable down to the water then after a while, he is reeled back in.

It's important to understand the techniques of cold water rescue and the dangers of hypothermia when you live in our climate. Recently I saw a program called Cold Water Boot Camp on TV in Bellingham. It was also highlighted in the the November 2009 issue of Pacific Yachting magazine. The two most important things I learned about cold water survival were: 1) WEAR A LIFEJACKET and 2) the 1-10-1 Principle. The lifejacket part is a no brainer, but sometimes ignored. The 1-10-1 Principle is:
1 minute of Cold Shock to control breathing and avoid panic
10 minutes until Cold Incapacitation to make a self rescue
1 hour until Hypothermia with unconsciousness and possible death
Here is a link to a clip of the video on YouTube. I highly recommend that you view it for your own safety. -- Margy


  1. What a wonderful blogpost! We so admire our EMS crews here. The firefighters are all volunteers.

  2. Anonymous2:09 AM

    It makes me proud to know that these Canadians are so capable of rescuing people in cold waters. I would have enjoyed being there with you watching them practice. ;-)


We welcome your comments and questions. - Wayne and Margy