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VISAR – Support the Search and Rescue Facilities!

Throughout the Caribbean there is a very real need for
search and rescue facilities. Some of our islands have a relatively
sophisticated maritime search and rescue capability, while others are still
working to achieve a basic service.

Over the past
three years, the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary has, in conjunction with
the US Southern Command, been working with a variety of agencies and
organisations throughout the region to foster and promote the development of
SAR through encouraging the creation of volunteer SAR providers able to work
alongside Government agencies to augment and compliment their assets and
abilities. In 2002, the Coast Guard gathered together some of the area’s
“experts” in the field and invited representatives from both government
mandated services and civilians to attend a conference in Miami to gauge
interest and the feasibility of assisting interested parties to improve their
ability to conduct search and rescue. The conference was well received and
delegates left with the belief that they could make significant improvements
and the confidence and determination to do so.

A second
conference was held approximately 18 months later, with workshops on a number
of topics. A series of workshops and lectures developed upon concepts
introduced during the first gathering, encompassing issues ranging from
organisational structure through life loss profiles to risk assessment.

In June of 2005,
representatives from six island states that have made significant progress were
invited to attend a “subject matter expert exchange” held in the Dominican
Republic. During an intense three days, facilitators challenged the attendees
with sessions on a diverse range of subjects. Delegates from the recently
formed JASAR on Jamaica’s Treasure Beach, the Marine Industries Association of
St. Lucia, the Turks & Caicos Rescue Association, the Antigua & Barbuda
Search and Rescue, the Grenada Coast Guard Auxiliary and St. Vincent engaged in
lively exchanges and participated in a short but informative table-top
exercise.

As a result of the
work done over the last few years, it seems likely that residents and visitors
to the Caribbean are set to enjoy a greater degree of safety than has been
available to date and peace of mind as these new services come fully on-line.
We urge you to support SAR services throughout the region – while you may not
need them, they certainly need you so that in the event that in the event that
you do need emergency assistance some time in the future they will be able to
respond appropriately.

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