Everyone agrees that there is great value in sharing SAR information as widely as possible, including lessons identified in SAR incidents, accidents, exercises and drills, so that SAR service personnel can take opportunities to learn from others’ experience and improve their own preparedness.

Lessons learned’, by the way, or ‘lessons identified’? It is important to be clear about the meaning of the commonly-used phrase ‘lessons learned’. Lessons from SAR events are first identified by SAR authorities, responders, investigation authorities and others involved. These lessons are then analysed and decisions made about what actions may be required as a result. Once actions are agreed, effort, resource and time are required to implement them. Only when the actions have been fully implemented can the lessons be said to have been ‘learned’.

It is up to individuals and organisations to apply lessons identified, but this cannot happen unless information is shared. However, attempts at establishing such a process internationally have had little success in the past. A system has to be set up that is capable of receiving and publishing the data, and data has to be actually submitted. In practice this means that the lead organisation has to proactively encourage submission. People and organisations can be understandably shy about sharing things that went wrong. Perhaps more surprisingly, successes are not always shared either.

According to our Articles of Association the IMRF’s objects are “to prevent loss of life, to promote safety and to provide relief from disaster at sea and on inland waters throughout the world by […]:

promoting cooperation, exchange of information, research and development, advice and consultancy between maritime search and rescue services of the world;
encouraging and promoting the formation and development of maritime search and rescue services throughout the world; and
promoting public education and awareness regarding safety on water.

Sharing lessons identified and other information of use to the SAR community is thus a primary purpose and function of the IMRF. We achieve this function by circulating information to our members, directly and in our newsletters, and by placing information on our websites. The great majority of this information is made available on an open-source basis, funded by the IMRF’s member organisations and by charitable grants and donations. The primary website (to which subsidiary sites are linked) is at www.international-maritime-rescue.org.

As noted in our report of the recent ICAO/IMO Joint Working Group on SAR, the IMRF’s contact details will be added to the next edition of the IAMSAR Manual, with readers encouraged to share SAR lessons and other useful information with us, so that we can pass them on. We will be reviewing our processes to ensure that this sharing service is clear and easy to use before the 2019 edition is published.

But you don’t need to wait until 2019!

If you have something to share – innovative equipment or procedures, or lessons identified as you prepare for or practice SAR – do please let us know!

You can contact us at [email protected].

We look forward to hearing from you.