Ballina coast guard volunteers Duncan Woodhead (left) and Claire Gibson attend to ‘patients’ during a mock rescue at Ballina on Thursday.
Ballina coast guard volunteers Duncan Woodhead (left) and Claire Gibson attend to ‘patients’ during a mock rescue at Ballina on Thursday. DOUG EATON

Help’s only 10 minutes away

THE best way to seek help for a medical emergency on the water is under debate.

Following The Northern Star’s coverage of an incident last month where two Tweed Heads men were thrown out of their boat and hit by its propeller at Mobbs Bay at Ballina, calling the coast guard can be your best bet if you are unsure of exit point codes for nearby wharfs.

Ballina Coast Guard Commander Norm Lannoy said people typically radioed or phoned the coast guard tower for help, and once the call was received it took ‘about 10 minutes to get a crew into the boat’. “We’re virtually on call 24/7,” he said.

Cdr Lannoy said they typically attended to incidents such as boat engine breakdowns, but on occasions situations could be far more serious.

On Thursday the crew performed a training run – a mock rescue of volunteers playing the part of a severely injured couple in a scenario similar to the Mobbs Bay incident. Once the crew was in the boat, it took about three minutes to reach the scene.

After pulling volunteer victims Caroline Woodhead and Tony Hensley from the water, ambulance and police were notified of the incident so the coast guard could meet them as quickly as possible at the Fawcett Street wharf.

Crew members are all trained in basic first-aid to SES standards, allowing them to stabilise patients until ambulance paramedics take over when the boat reached land.

Clare Gibson said they carried out a primary assessment, attending to obvious injuries such as open wounds first, before carrying out a secondary assessment to find out what happened and whether there were underlying injuries.

“We look at cuts and attend to bleeding first, and then when they are bandaged up we attend to suspected broken bones,” she said. “Then we do a secondary assessment and ask them things like their name, where they’re from, what happened, and how they’re feeling.”

Ms Gibson and Ms Leuckel said the crew members performing first-aid wrote down all the information patients gave them so paramedics knew what the situation was and the condition of those who were injured.

“We are continually monitoring them until we hand over to paramedics,” Ms Leuckel said.

Overall, the entire rescue took 23 minutes. Cdr Lannoy stressed that onlookers shouldn’t call emergency services such as police or the ambulance.



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