By dive guide, Susanne Rumpel (Susi)
"What is SAR...not some tropical disease but a life saving institution!
Have you ever asked yourself what happens when an emergency arises out at sea? Who is out there 24/7 in case of an emergency? Answer - the Search and Rescue Team in Sharm! It's their priority, their will and spirit. So who are they? To find some insight to this, I went to speak to Dr Osama Abo El Fotouh, General Director of the Search and Rescue Team (SAR) here in Sharm.
SAR was founded in August 2001. They function as a First Aid Marine Centre, public service and a marine ambulance at sea as well as on land and are able to co-ordinate all medical emergencies as well as evacuations from Dahab to Cairo. Dr Osama is a physician who graduated in 1996. He worked as the head doctor at the Intensive Care Unit at the Sharm International Hospital and joined the SAR in 2004. He has a well-established and dedicated team of whom he is very proud. Each team member is qualified under the American National Institute of First Aid and the American Heart Association and each has undergone First Aid, Basic Life Support, Risk Assessment, Near Miss Operations and Fire Fighting training. Refresher medical training is carried out at least three to four times a year.
One of the team members is Mr Wael, who co-ordinates land operations and is the link with the necessary authorities like the sea operations, hospital, hyperbaric chamber etc. He, like Nasser, (who is one of the most experienced RIB pilots), used to be Rescue personnel in Alexandria working on the North coast of Egypt as Life Guards on jet skies. This gave them valuable experience and on-the-job training in the Mediterranean Sea. Then there is Ahmed H, an ex-Navy Serviceman who spent two years on a Navy Vessel in the Red Sea and is an excellent pilot. During daytime there are three pilots, three rescuers and three to four land operators. Accommodation is provided at the centre so that members are on stand-by 24/7. An operational clinic is available at base to assist with minor to moderate cases.
SAR is equipped with three RIBs with fibreglass unsinkable hulls and separate airtight compartments made from heavy-duty material. They are designed to have a self-righting system in case of capsizing and can reach speeds of up to 42 knots. To Ras Mohammed it takes roughly 12-15 minutes and to Tiran 25-35 minutes depending on the sea conditions. When out on an emergency run they are equipped with floating marine stretcher with back board suitable for air lifting; spider straps; air splints for all kinds of fractures; AED-defibrillator; neck collars; suction pump/aspirator; DAN oxygen kit with an MTV 100 regulator and a full first aid medical kit. Other equipment includes GPS; compass; night vision goggles; communication devices such as a VHF radio; satellite phone and mobile phones. On an emergency run the RIB carries a pilot, a doctor and an assistant. The base is also equipped with a workshop for repairs on the RIBs.
All equipment and training obviously comes at a great cost. With no government financing, SAR is solely dependent on the fees from its members. Last year they were shut down for two weeks by the Egyptian Military for not having the correct permissions to operate. This created an anxious time for all marine and has now created a 10% drop in memberships. Membership costs are 275 Egyptian pounds a month and are mainly made up from the diving centres in the area and some smaller marine users. This drop has a serious implication as this reduces SAR's funds for more training and equipment. Taking into consideration that, although every rescue situation may be different, there is still a sizeable financial repercussion to running this sort of facility.
After an insightful and interesting visit with Dr Osama at the SAR centre, I have found myself with the utmost respect for what this operation is doing for the benefit of all in Sharm. Records show that rescuers have been carried out for all nationalities and all types of marine users. I would therefore hate to see this excellent service cease to operate. It is in everyone's best interest in the area to give the men of this service their full support and respect."