Coast Guard training never stops

  • May. 1, 2009 6:00 p.m.

By Alex Rawlings–A self-righting really fast zodiac, or the Cape Mudge (the Coast Guard’s 47-foot multi-task high endurance Sandspit-based lifeboat), are the two things you’d likely first see if you were in danger in the waters around the islands. The Coast Guard provides maritime protection and environmental response in the region which includes about 27,000 km of coastline from the Lower Mainland to the Yukon. “Up here, there is a relatively low call volume compared to the rest of the province,” said Officer in Charge Denis Taylor, “we deal with about 25 distress calls a year, this includes our environmental response as well.” The Coast Guard station in Sandspit, which opened 5 years ago, is home to Officer in Charge Denis Taylor, Rescue Specialists Civa Gauthier and Murray Kennedy, and Engineer Chris Arnold. On call 24/7 during their three week shifts, and specially trained to assist you and your boat, it’s these people who would be on scene to rescue you. “When we aren’t on a rescue mission, we are typically training for one, doing things such as briefings on potential scenarios, vessel checks, station maintenance, or preparing for upcoming projects that we will be involved in,” said Mr. Taylor, “we often do mock rescues two or so times a week with a different injury or incident each time, today we will be going out to rescue a 26 year old woman (Brenna O’Brien-volunteer victim) who has fallen down a flight of stairs on her yacht and has serious injuries to her pelvic region, neck, and leg.” When the mayday comes into the station from Prince Rupert the team quickly gathers all necessary information such as age and state of victim, the location, the conditions of the seas, and then prepares a rescue plan. “Generally, we prepare for the worst, and hope for the best when we head out on distress calls,” said Mr. Taylor. Donning bright red personal flotation suits, and fully equipped with a stretcher and medical supplies the team headed out in the Cape Mudge and the zodiac to rescue Brenna and transport her back to the station where an ambulance would theoretically be waiting to provide more medical attention. “Our first priority is human life, our second priority is to assist with environmental response in the event of a disaster like an oil spill, we also assist the RCMP, the ambulance service, and even the parks around here” said Mr. Taylor. The rescue, conducted by rescue specialists Civa and Murray was smooth and swift. Ms O’Brien was assessed, stabilized, and moved to the zodiac for rapid transport back to the station. The rescue mission, full of feedback from the victim, and closely monitored by Denis, and Chris, was discussed, and assessed to determine what, if anything, could have been done differently. “This feedback is what keeps us prepared,” said Mr.Taylor, “training is on going with the Coast Guard, this is why people can feel safe in the water.” Want to join the Coast Guard or the Auxiliary? Visit the regional website at or the national website