Michael Vlasto was an IMRF Trustee for 13 years and IMRF Chairman from 2008 until 2015. His maritime career spanned 10 years as a Deck Officer with the Merchant Navy and then 38 years with the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI), with the final 16 years as the organisation’s operations director.

During his time with IMRF, he helped to establish the IMRF Asia Pacific Regional Centre (APRC) in Shanghai and still remains Vice-Chairman of the APRC Board.

The IMRF Awards are an opportunity for the entire search-and-rescue (SAR) community to come together and celebrate individuals, teams, organisations and technologies that have demonstrated outstanding professionalism and exceptional dedication to saving lives all over the world.

For Michael Vlasto, Chair of the IMRF Awards Judging Panel, this rationale has expanded to account for the growing number of people, especially women, that have joined the SAR community over the years.

“When the awards were established in 2016 we wanted to draw attention to the achievements of maritime lifesavers worldwide, many of whom were volunteers. We also wanted to develop appropriate awards for the whole ‘SAR family’ instead of just focusing on the acts of gallantry carried out by the rescuers at the sharp end,” Michael said.

“Since then, the span of the awards has broadened, particularly with regard to the increasing number of women getting involved in SAR activities that have traditionally been carried out by men.”

“The #WomenInSAR Award is a prime example of how the IMRF is taking a leading role in highlighting the efforts made by female lifesavers globally,” he added.

This year, the IMRF is hoping that the nominations will have a greater focus on acknowledging the efforts made by back office and support roles, to emphasise that it takes a whole team to respond to SAR incidents.

“Saving lives is very much a team activity, which includes those behind the scenes,” Michael said.

“Equipment designers, administrators, trainers, welfare service providers, communicators, fundraisers and coordinators, amongst others, are all contributors to an effective and successful maritime SAR service. I’m proud that the IMRF Awards are highlighting the efforts of all personnel, be they at sea or on the land,” he added.

Michael also noted that the increase in the number and quality of the IMRF Award nominations in recent years means the selection process has become that much harder.

“The quality of nominations has always been high, but as SAR organisations around the world become increasingly more involved in the IMRF, the selection process has become that much tougher.”

“I would encourage our SAR organisation members to get their nominations in as soon as possible so that the endeavours of their personnel come to the attention of the IMRF and the wider SAR community,” Michael said.

For Michael, he also acknowledged the pleasure it has been to have been the chair of the IMRF Awards Judging Panel since they started.

“It has been an honour and a privilege to have been involved since the inception of the awards and watch them grow in stature and the respect in which they are held. I look forward to seeing the profile of the awards amongst IMRF member organisations and the wider SAR community continue to grow and be held in high esteem,” he added.

Click here to find out more about this year's IMRF Awards.