Coast Guard and Partners Conduct Search and Rescue Exercises on Big Island


The Coast Guard, Navy, Hawaii Fire Department, Hawaii Police Department, Ocean Safety and other responders successfully concluded two search and rescue exercises on the island of Hawaii , May 20.

Honolulu Coast Guard Sector personnel conduct search trainings – called SAREX – each year in the Hawaiian Islands, designed to evaluate notification and response procedures and identify gaps in communication and coordination of the response to SAR incidents.

“This was the first time for me to participate and help with the planning or organization of our joint SAREX,” said Darwin Okinaka, assistant fire chief for the Hawaii Fire Department. “Charles Turner, a Coast Guard Sector Honolulu search and rescue coordinator, and I got online and started planning for 2020, and due to COVID, we had to cancel the exercise. Fortunately this year has allowed us to restart. Due to the length of time and the many new faces in our rescue companies, I asked Charles if it would be possible to do an exercise on each side of the island, since we have a rescue company on each side. He accepted with pleasure and we coordinated in this way.

The first exercise began Monday in Hilo with asset open houses at Hilo International Airport and the Port of Hilo.

“What was good about this year was that Charles came up with the idea of ​​having a ‘show and tell’ presentation day before the exercise days, which went into more detail about everyone’s abilities and how they could fit into our operations,” Okinaka said. “This part has greatly improved everyone’s experience. For this reason, we have included all of our rescue personnel, not just those on duty that day. »


“We have also included DLNR/DOCARE and the Navy HSM-37 group for the first time. They have been beneficial to have and see what they have available to us to ask for help.


The following day, the partners held a mock search for an overdue kayaker at Hilo Bayfront Beach Park.

After a mock call was made to Hawai’i County dispatch reporting the disappearance of a kayaker, agencies established an incident command post and deployed response teams to search the area. the area in search of a mannequin representing the missing person who was located by a fire from Hawai’i. The Chopper-2 department helicopter crew and was picked up by the Coast Guard Cutter William Hart.

“Each Hawaiian island is unique and presents its own challenges when it comes to the search and rescue mission,” said Lt. Lindsey Neumann, chief of the Coast Guard Sector Command Center in Honolulu. “SAREXs are excellent relationship-building opportunities that test our inter-agency collaboration and our abilities to improve our operational efficiency.”


On Thursday, partners traveled from Hilo to Kailua-Kona for a second similar exercise holding an asset open house at Kona International Airport and the Port of Honokohau.

On Friday, a second open water exercise took place off Kawaihae with a similar case of a kayaker running late.

Partner agencies established an incident command post and deployed their responders with the mannequin representing the missing person found by the crew of the Hawaiian Fire Department Chopper-2 and taken to await medical services ashore.

“It was truly a great experience for us and to be able to build the relationships we have now to improve our collaboration in the future is awesome,” Okinaka said.

Involved in this year’s SAREX on the island of Hawai’i:

– Honolulu Coast Guard Sector Command Center Staff
– Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point Dolphin helicopter and HC-130 Hercules with crews
-Coast Guard Cutter William Hart
– United States Navy SH-60B Seahawk Crew
-Hawai’i County Fire Department Responders
-Hawai’i County Police Department Responders
– Hawai’i County Emergency Medical Services Responders
– Hawai’i County Ocean Safety and Rescue Services Responders
-Department of Land and Natural Resources Hawaii Division of Conservation and Resource Enforcement Responders
– NOAA Police Bureau boat crew

The objectives of the Coast Guard Search and Rescue Program are to minimize loss of life, injury, and property loss and damage in the marine environment, to minimize risk to responders, to optimize the use of resources and to remain a world leader in maritime SAR experience. and efficiency.

Brandon D. James