As a matter of good governance and best practice, the IMRF regularly reviews its guidance and learning materials to ensure they reflect the latest thinking, any regulatory changes and the experience of members to ensure they are as relevant as possible.

The Basic Rescue Boat Operator Manual and Search Cards were developed in direct response to a need expressed by IMRF Members.

These members were involved in delivering maritime SAR training to organisations in the Africa SAR region and some had responded to the Aegean crisis in 2016.

From these experiences, it was clear that there was a lack of standardised documentation, such as detailed common training standards and resources.  

As a result, it was agreed that a common training resource with an agreed syllabus content in the form of manuals would help standardise SAR training, and an IMRF working group was created in 2018 to address this.

Dave Whiddon, International Programmes Manager with the RNLI is now leading the IMRF’s working group review of these valuable and well-used training materials, we asked him to tell us more about the review and why it matters …

Why Is a Review Being Conducted Now?

When these resources were first developed in 2018, it was agreed, as good practice, that they should be reviewed every three years.

This allows users to provide comments and feedback on their use and suitability and means any changes can be made and lessons learned can be captured from their use.

This ensures that the manuals are continuously improved, kept up-to-date and current.

What is involved – there is a working group – how was that assembled, who’s involved and how do you review the publication?

The original resources were developed by a working group which was made up of IMRF members that had been involved in delivering training in Africa and the Aegean, as well as organisations that had received this training.

This ensured that the working group had a cross representation of users and it captured the needs of different geographical and regional needs, operating environments and local context.

The current review group will be again made up of a small working group of IMRF Members that have been selected because of their first-hand experience of using the resources, as well as other organisations that have expressed an interest in being part of this process.

Why Does It Matter that the Manual Is Updated, What Could Go Wrong if It Wasn’t?

As part of the governance of the manual and search cards, it is best practice to review documentation periodically to ensure resources are still fit for purpose and ensure that there is no safety critical or outdated information that may have changed.

It is also important to make sure that appropriate methods to introduce basic training in rescue boat SAR operations are being utilised.

These resources provide a solid foundation for organisations around the world, who are involved in providing training in rescue boat operations.

How Do you Make it Applicable Worldwide, to All kinds of Different Organisations?

The primary aim of the Basic Rescue Boat Operator Manual is to save lives by providing a resource containing essential skills, knowledge and guidance for those operating in a maritime environment.

The manual is designed as a guidance document that can be adapted to suit the local environment and context.

They were designed and developed following an extensive trial period and by capturing user feedback from a number of countries including Greece, Tanzania and Morocco, to name just a few.

These resources are now being translated by IMRF members around the world, wherever a need has been identified.

What Is the Most Valuable/Most Referred to Part of the Manual?

From my experience, the search cards have been really well received and they allow for a standardised approach in the exchange of information needed between a SAR Mission Coordinator (SMC) and the SAR unit.

This allows both parties to gather all the information needed to go out and provide an effective search.

It really helps bringing the content from the IAMSAR Volume 3 manual into a user-friendly aide memoir and introduces the correct and standardised international SAR terminology.

The search cards can also be a valuable tool for training scenarios between SMC and the SAR unit.

When Will the Review Be Completed?

It is anticipated that the review will start in March 2022 and will be completed over a period of twelve weeks, with the aim of having the revised documentation ready by July 2022.

What Next?

There are other resources that have been produced by IMRF members over the years and these include:

  • IMRF A Common Standard of Training for Maritime SAR Unit Coxswains-2014
  • The Rescue Boat Guidelines - The Digital Tool

These currently have not been reviewed or updated for a number of years and we would like to take this opportunity, whilst the working group has been formed, to review and update them to ensure that they are still fit for purpose and raise awareness of their existence and promote their use within the IMRF community.

What Do You Want Organisations to Do Following the Review – To Ensure Any Changes Are Taken on Board?

It is important that organisations are aware that these resources are available and can be requested or downloaded as part of their IMRF Membership.

Likewise, all IMRF M embers using these resources are invited to provide feedback and comments on the content of the resources.

We are always interested to hear from IMRF members who are able to share lessons learned from the use of the manual and check cards so that we, as a community, can continue to improve the resources.

Furthermore, we are very interested to hear about any case studies that can be captured and any translations of the manual that can be shared, as this will help with sharing any future changes and highlight any additional training resources that are required with the maritime SAR community.

If you or your organisation would like to provide feedback on these or any other IMRF resources, please contact Caroline Jupe, Head of Fundraising & Projects on [email protected].

About Dave Whiddon

Dave Whiddon is an International Programmes Manager with the RNLI. He works with organisations around the world to develop maritime search and rescue (SAR) and flood rescue with the aim of helping to improve lifesaving capabilities and tackling the global drowning epidemic.

In recent years, he has worked with the Bangladesh Fire and Rescue Service to assist in developing their flood and water rescue capabilities. He has delivered maritime SAR training in the Africa SAR region and was the lead in the creation of SAR and Flood Rescue manuals on behalf of the RNLI and IMRF.

These resources have been created with the aim of helping to improve standards and access to technical training resources around the world.

In his previous role as a RNLI Trainer, he has acquired extensive subject matter knowledge and expertise. He has delivered training around the world in a number of technical areas including: maritime search and rescue, sea survival, casualty care and flood rescue.

In his spare time, he has volunteered for the ambulance service as a Community First Responder and for the RNLI’s Flood Rescue Team, with experience of deploying to flooding incidents within the UK.

He is passionate about sharing learning and working in collaboration with like-minded organisations in order to improve SAR capabilities around the world.