Coast Guard Melbourne (VF12) at Sandringham, is a radio control and coordination centre where volunteers provide assistance to the boating public. The not for profit service is provided 365 days per year. (VF12 does not operate a rescue boat.) The volunteers are both genders and from 18 years of age to past retirement.
From last year’s 19,500 radio calls and 9,700 telephone calls, 445 boats were assisted involving 970 people in need of assistance. A call can be for anything from simple weather related advice to a mayday rescue.
The role of VF12 involves monitoring craft in the bays and coastal waters. When a call is received the radio operator’s skill gained through training becomes important. Many details must be established to enable the fastest and safest response to the people in distress. Once approved by Water Police, a suitable craft is despatched (and monitored) to aid the distressed vessel.
Training to be a radio operator is a rewarding experience. Using the radios commences almost immediately by assisting an experienced radio operator in a standard radio shift. For people in the Radio Room, a minimum of two 7 hour shifts per month is required, a weekly shift is welcomed. Radio operators and trainees select shifts that are suitable to them. Training covers a variety of topics, navigation, first aid, marine principles, etc. The Long Range Operators Certificate of Proficiency, which is a marine radio licence, is a focal point. This does appear a considerable amount to learn, but you learn as you go.
While the primary interest is radio communication, members are also required in areas that make Coast Guard the self-sufficient operation it is, administration, computer or radio support, marketing, fundraising, public education, etc.
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