Darwin volunteers become AMSA’s eyes in the sky

Thursday 31 July 2014
A group of Northern Territory Emergency Service (NTES) volunteers from the Darwin area will be trained in air search observation with the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) this weekend (2-3 August 2014).
Media Release

Australia’s NTES volunteers are often called on to undertake storm damage and land search operations, but they can also be called on to undertake search operations from the air.

Trained Emergency Service air search observers regularly assist the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) in searches for missing aircraft, vessels or people in remote areas or at sea.

“Visual air searches are undertaken for aircraft, cars, vessels or people while flying at a relatively low altitude. Air search observers play the essential role of looking for the target, which can often be very difficult to see,” AMSA acting Chief Executive Officer Mick Kinley said.

“Air observing is a demanding task, requiring intense concentration over extended periods of time,” Mr Kinley said.

To prepare NTES volunteers for this task, AMSA regularly undertakes training courses across the country. This weekend, 24 volunteers from the Darwin area will undertake the training.

“The course involves some theory including the role of AMSA and distress beacon detection and then the volunteers are taken up in an aircraft. The training goes through what objects look like from different heights and then tests volunteers to spot an object, such as a buoy at sea,” Mr Kinley said.

“The training also covers what to do in case of an emergency at sea through activities in a pool. The volunteers go through staying warm and staying together as a group in the water, and then a life raft is dropped into the pool and has to be inflated,” he said.

Currently, more than 480 Emergency Service volunteers across 22 locations throughout Australia are trained as air search observers.

Air observers can be tasked to help in searches across the country as well as overseas, such as the Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea and New Caledonia.