THEY are the real fourth emergency service and save lives across the country on a daily basis to find out what they do Reporter Helen Millichamp went along to an HM Coastguard exercise to see the teams in action.
YOU would be forgiven for thinking that there was a major rescue operation under way at Newton-by-the-Sea last weekend.
With Coastguard vehicles littering the small seaside village, it seemed that something big was happening. In fact, there wasn’t just one incident ongoing but three.
But they were all part of Exercise Neptune which saw the Coastguard teams from Northumberland take on real life scenarios.
Co-ordinated from the Newton remote radar point they were sent to deal with a fisherman who had suffered a stroke, an angler who had fallen down a cliff and a missing person who was diabetic.
The event was in collaboration with the RNLI.
HM Coastguard has seven teams in Northumberland, based at Berwick, Holy Island, Seahouses, Howick (made up of the former Boulmer and Craster teams), Amble, Newbiggin-by-the-Sea and Blyth. They are mostly manned by volunteers and most were taking part in Sunday’s event.
Humber is the main co-ordination centre and shouts are sent out from there to the relevant teams when calls come in.
In the first of the exercises, a fisherman ‘phoned-in’ to say his friend hadn’t been seen for an hour-and-a-half.
The coastguard searched the beach and sent a water rescue team in to Emblestone Rocks where he had last been seen.
Once the casualty was located, he was assessed and found to have a head injury. The lifeboat crew was then called into action.
In the second incident, an angler had fallen down a cliff at Football Hole, just north of Low Newton. The hazardous rocks meant that team members had to hammer stakes into the ground and attach a harness to go down the cliff face and attend to the casualty. It showed real team work, with each member working at the same speed as others to achieve the most effective outcome.
A lifeboat was also on hand but it was decided that it was too risky to carry the casualty across the rocks to the boat and instead he was carried up the cliff.
In other circumstances, RAF Boulmer’s Sea King helicopter would have been called into action to winch the casualty to safety.
The third incident saw crews searching the area for the man who had gone missing. They were given a limited amount of information and had to ask the right questions to get help them.
Paul Duffy, Amble sector manager, said: “It’s gone quite well. It is a real situation, we’re running three incidents of very different types and I think they have reflected the things that can happen in a real situation.
“Our biggest problem this year has been the Holy Island Causeway. We’ve had 18 call-outs so far. We’ve also had a few diving incidents around the Farne Islands.”
Mike Bill, coastal safety manager for the North East, said: “The benefit of having such a big exercise is they can put the training they have had into action. It also helps to highlight areas we need to improve on. There have been a few hitches but it has gone well.”