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We are a team

ROSE CAWLEY
Last updated 05:00 06/12/2013
copter
KERRI WALKER
TRAINING TIME: Howick Coastguard volunteers Darren Arthur, left, and Warwick Marshall get ready to guide the Westpac rescue helicopter paramedic onto the boat.

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Saving lives on the water is a team effort.

Rough conditions, treacherous situations and medical emergencies sometimes require more than the Coastguard can deliver - and that's when the Westpac rescue helicopter is called in to help.

Howick Coastguard vice president Craig Houkamau says it's vital for the two organisations to know how to work together.

And that's why the unit pulled the tinsel off its boat straight after the Howick Christmas parade on Saturday and went to train in blustery conditions with the helicopter crew.

"It is all well and good to go out in dead flat calm weather and go through the motions but unfortunately there are a lot of situations where we are going to be working together and the conditions aren't going to be like that.

"Everything went exactly to plan and if in challenging conditions it all happened for real each organisation would have faith in the other."

He says the first option is always for Westpac to land but that is often not possible with sea rescues.

"If they are in the middle of the Firth of Thames and there isn't a place close at hand for the helicopter to land, a winching operation will take place."

Mr Houkamau says the winch training would most likely be put into practice if a boatie needed medical attention.

"Westpac and Coastguard would be called to assist them and that is where a paramedic would either be winched directly on to the boat that is being assisted or onto our boat and we would take them across."

Mr Houkamau says 20 Howick volunteers now have the practical training under their belt.

"Theory is well and good but when it comes to actually doing it nothing prepares you better than physical training," Mr Houkamau says.

A highlight was Howick Rescue 1 ploughing along a mapped course and the helicopter swooping in and winching a paramedic on to the deck, he says.

"The helicopter has better stability when it is moving, that is why they like to do it but the boat going through the 1-2 metre swells made it a bit challenging."

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- Eastern Courier

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