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COTAG Exercise 2008

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In this type of incident a Forward Control Point (FCP) is established from which operational commands are issued. Forward Control Point established. © 2008 Donna McLean In this exercise the FCP was established on top of a hill on the edge of the COTAG off road training area, a short distance from the original RVP. There both the Red Cross and COTAG established their base and set up their radio controls.

It is imperative in any operation, but especially one involving multiple agencies, that all personnel are accounted for at all times. This is one of the roles of the controlling officer in each organisation. COTAG operates a DOC (Duty Officer Controlling) system where one person is responsible for controlling the COTAG vehicle resources. Vehicles are always despatched in pairs at a minimum for safety reasons, and crews are trained to keep the DOC updated with their location via their HF/VHF radios.

With the crash site grid reference known and all participating agencies established at the FCP, the COTAG DOC despatched an initial team of three vehicles to establish a route. In these circumstances careful map reading and even more careful reading of the terrain is paramount. Off road driving over (what would be) unknown terrain is extremely hazardous and COTAG crews are trained to work as self-supporting teams. Drivers look out not only for themselves but also for the driver behind as well as in front.

One of the classic mistakes often made by recreational 4x4 drivers is failing to properly read and assess the terrain ahead. It can be very tempting to remain in the nice warm vehicle, especially in cold driving rain, rather than getting out and walking the ground ahead. Depending upon the circumstances, this can be a serious mistake. The time lost by frequently stopping and carrying out a visual inspection of the ground ahead is more than offset by the time lost by an immobilised vehicle or injured personnel.


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