Stories

Hi, it’s Helen here,

David, my husband, and I used to do all the rescues together. The phone would ring, or a msg would come through, and with our rescue vehicle packed full of all our rescue and Personal Protection Equipment, off we would go.

But we got busy, really busy! In 2009 the television show, ‘Random Acts of Kindness’, built us a hospital. In four days they changed our lives. We feel blessed because we have a hospital and a fantastic team of volunteers that come along and help us care for the injured and orphaned wildlife. But, as the saying goes, “If you build it they will come.” And they do! We are so busy that I no longer go on rescues with David. I run the shelter and spend much time feeding the baby animals. (Also, I also had major heart surgery, and that has slowed me down a bit!)

As a wildlife rescue shelter we perform a lot of dangerous rescues all over the region, including some remote areas. The shelter’s wildlife rescue vehicle/ambulance is decked out with an enormous amount of equipment. From fire fighting equipment to cages of all sizes, nets for birds, ropes and harnesses for climbing, internal cameras for monitoring wildlife we are transporting, rear view camera, black box recorder camera, transistor radios , including 10 hand held UHF radios, roof mounted light bar, aluminium extension pole, for high rescue work, hard hats, reflective vests, fire overalls and helmets and the list goes on and on. The shelter believes that personal safety really is our number one priority!

David carries a lot of PPE (Personal Protection Equipment) on his person. This includes moleskin pants, steel toe boots, torch, knife, good quality belt that can be used to secure an animal or used as a tourniquet, or used as a rope, good quality work shirt, fingerless leather gloves, mobile phone, wide brimmed leather hat, shatter proof sunglasses (sunglasses are important to avoid eye contact with the wild animals), even a compass.

The shelter rescues all types of native wildlife and David primarily works on his own now, as do all our rescue qualified personnel - all 15 of them currently working at the shelter. We thought we had everything covered which gave me peace of mind that we had taken all precautions, because who will rescue the rescuer! (Although I would still worry every time David walked out the door.)

We were pretty confident about it until one day the shelter received a call about a wallaby that had fallen into an old abandoned mine shaft, about 15 meters deep, along the Great Ocean Road, near Bells Beach.

David arrived at the mine shaft, took all of his climbing ropes and harness, hard hat etc., plus the equipment to secure the wallaby for the climb out. After David secured his climbing gear and abseiled down the mine shaft, he was greeted at the bottom by a large adult male swamp wallaby that appeared to be uninjured!

After carefully capturing and securing the wallaby, he was able to ascend the mineshaft without mishap.

After arriving back at the shelter, and treating and feeding the wallaby, David sat down with myself, and all the shelter key personnel, to debrief after the day’s events. A decision was made that there was one more piece of vital equipment that could have made the job safer - a Personal Locating Beacon. It was decided that we needed to buy one straight away. (They are the same as a EPIRB, but are used on land not the sea).

There are many on the market, most will locate you to within 5kms but the one the shelter bought will locate you to within 5 metres.

In a life and death situation, once the beacon is activated, it sends a signal via satellite to Canberra, then all necessary emergency services are immediately deployed to beacon’s location.

If anything had happened to David while he was down the mineshaft, his mobile phone would have been useless. Same for many of his rescues. A lot of the rescues are roadside in the middle of nowhere, and out of mobile reception. And, although we have a radio in the rescue vehicle, there is a chance that he could be injured and unable to get back to it.

So now, every time David walks out of the shelter’s door he takes the PLB with him, as well as all of the other Personal Protection Equipment that he wears. I now have my peace of mind back and David is secure in the knowledge that he has the capacity to get help to him at any time.

Leopold Wildlife Shelter and Wildlife Rescue recommends that all wildlife rescue personnel carry a PLB along with all of the other PPE every time they go to rescue native wildlife.

We hope this information helps save someone’s life and gives their friends, partners and colleagues peace of mind.

Keep up the good work, everyone!
Rescue safety
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Posted on 24 Aug 2014 by admin
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