National Volunteer Week: Volunteers essential to Australia’s search and rescue operations

Friday 10 May 2013
The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) has acknowledged the valuable work of volunteers ahead of National Volunteer Week (13-19 May).
Media Release

AMSA’s Rescue Coordination Centre coordinates the search and rescue of hundreds of lives across Australia each year and regularly calls on the assistance of volunteers from the State Emergency Service (SES), Coastguard and Volunteer Marine Rescue to undertake search and rescue tasks in their local communities.

AMSA has agreements with the State Emergency Services of all states and territories for support of air search operations, and AMSA runs training courses for SES volunteers to become air search observers.

Trained SES air search observers regularly assist 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. SES observers undertake the essential role of looking for the target, which can often be very difficult to see,” AMSA’s General Manager Emergency Response John Young said.

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

This financial year, AMSA has run air observer training for SES volunteers in Alice Springs, Brisbane, Broome, Cairns, Darwin, Kalgoorlie, Perth and Townsville.

Upcoming training courses will be held in Karratha, Launceston and Hobart. Today, several SES air search observers are involved in the search for two people reported missing from a cruise ship off the NSW mid north coast.

SES air observers were also involved in the successful search for French solo sailor Alain De Lord in January this year off the coast of Tasmania, as well as the successful search for a missing vessel off the Solomon Islands in May 2012.

Currently, more than 480 SES volunteers across 22 locations throughout Australia are trained in air observation. The largest contingents of air observers are based near Sydney, Brisbane and Perth.

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.

Media Note: SES air search observers from SES units near Brisbane, Canberra, Darwin, Hobart, Launceston, Melbourne and Sydney are available for interviews. Contact AMSA Media to request an interview.