“You are among the best of humanity; lights in the dark!”

IMRF Awards 2019

To thank Dave for his contribution to the development of international SAR he was presented with a special recognition award t the IMRF Awards.

As the IMRF’s expert on mass rescue operations he has been the organisations special representative at the IMO.

David joined the IMRF in 2010, following a career at sea and many years ashore working with the UK Coastguard, ultimately as the national organisation’s head of search and rescue.

As of the end of September I have retired from the IMRF so our Editor has asked me for a few words of farewell.

I have been in SAR for some 36 years now. I was at sea in general cargo ships for nine years before that; then I was with the Coastguard in the UK for 25 years, in rescue coordination centres, and training and management roles.

After that came a little consultancy, and I have been working for the IMRF for the last ten years. My SAR, then, has been in coordination and back-offices: in 36 years I have only pulled three people from the water myself. But SAR is SAR, whatever part you play in it. It gets into your blood.

Retiring from the IMRF I naturally think of the international work it has been my privilege to be a part of. This began when I was still with the Coastguard: for a while I was the UK’s maritime member on the ICAO/IMO Joint Working Group on SAR, and I attended meetings at the IMO in London.

Some of this work related to major incident planning, which was also a part of my ‘day job’. It was this focus that first involved me in work for the IMRF, helping to arrange the first of our Gothenburg mass rescue operations conferences. I’ve been able to do a few things for the IMRF since, but our MRO project has given particular satisfaction.

I will take many SAR memories into my retirement – not all of them happy ones, for that’s the nature of SAR too. But the happiest memories are of the many SAR friends it has been my great good fortune to have made down the years – people from all over the world.

In these rather dark days when narrow-minded nationalism seems resurgent it is a comfort to remember how SAR cuts across all such boundaries. You meet another SAR person from whatever background and place and immediately there’s a common bond. I remember a Maltese colleague saying to me once: “David – SAR is my religion. I believe in it!” Well: amen to that.

I believe in the IMRF too – what it stands for. It makes obvious sense to share experience and ideas around the SAR community. It makes obvious sense to develop SAR, especially in regions where far too many people still die at sea.

It also makes obvious sense to have a clear, and respected, ‘voice of SAR’ at the IMO. And this is what the IMRF is for, advocacy and global SAR development.

I’d like to thank everyone it has been my pleasure to work with for all your help and support – and, quite often, patience! Here I must make special mention of secretariat colleagues over the last ten years: Gerry and Ann, Jill and Wendy, Bruce, Rebecca, Caroline and Theresa.

I must also add the two Board Chairs in my time; Michael and Udo. But if I start to expand this list any further, I’d go on for pages – which our Editor would not like. Suffice it to say: thanks to you all. You know who you are.

Finally, my very best wishes to everyone in the SAR family. You are among the best of humanity; lights in the dark! I hope to see some of you again here and there (for no-one leaves SAR completely) but, for now, fair winds to you all.