Search and rescue in Bright

Recovery of injured skier (snapped head of his femur off) August 2015 near Horse Ridge Mt Bogong – involved 50 hours of search and recovery time; agencies - Victoria Police, RAV, SES and Ski Patrol Recovery of injured skier (snapped head of his femur off) August 2015 near Horse Ridge Mt Bogong – involved 50 hours of search and recovery time; agencies - Victoria Police, RAV, SES and Ski Patrol

Coordinating response and attending to search and rescue events for police is relatively common place in the Alpine region of Victoria. These range from bushwalkers losing their way or injuring themselves, off road motorcycle mishaps to missing skiers and hikers in the middle of the winter (some of the conditions in the high altitudes in Victoria during winter commensurate with some of the worst conditions in the world). Generally they turn out well (with only the occasional loss of life) but due to the high altitude, steep terrain, isolation and often extreme weather conditions the response by police and emergency services is often time critical and can expose the rescuers to very dangerous and unpredictable conditions.

People that are reported missing or report themselves as ‘lost’ have not properly prepared themselves, have the right equipment nor followed some basic principles – not withstanding that mishaps can occur with those most experienced.

Recently we had a case where a male and his girlfriend walked up Bungalow Spur to Federation Hut (near Mt. Feathertop) – no map, basic hiking gear, smart phone and compass. Once at federation Hut the lad photographed the 50000:1 map of the area that was on the wall and decided to change his intended route home by trying to find the head of Champion Spur (off the Razorback) using the photo of the map as his reference.

Once along the razorback he headed west off the main walking tack to try and find Champion Spur (that commences about 1km from the main walking track). He became disorientated (totally lost) and started to get into thick regrowth and scrub – he and his girlfriend dumped their packs and decided to walk back to a high point to re-orientate themselves. This wasn’t successful and then they couldn’t find their packs, it was getting dark and worry started to set in. Contact was made with police and the initiation of locating them commenced.

Technology has advanced in leaps and bounds and there are some great bits of kit available that can be utilised by adventurers and emergency services alike. In this case (as he had a smart phone) he was requested to download the Emergency + app (free app, which displays your position via visual location on google maps as well as displaying the Lat. And Long. Coordinates) – these were subsequently relayed to police who pinpointed their location and subsequently initiated responders to locate them. As an adjunct his position placed him several hundred metres south of the head of Champion Spur and he was asked (since he had a compass) to head due north for a couple of hundred metres and then re-check his position – he asked me ‘how do you find north on a compass’!! - enough said…they were both subsequently found safe and well ...

This is an example of being totally unprepared, not having the right gear and not knowing how to use basic equipment. This example could have had a totally different outcome if the weather and conditions had not been so conducive.

Message here is to be properly prepared, have basic equipment including a map and compass and most importantly know how to use them. Also equip yourself with technology aids that can assist (no problems even being your initial ‘go to’ source for navigation) but always have a fall-back position with a map and compass.

Doug Incoll
Bright Police Station
Acting HUME Region Emergency Management Inspector

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