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News Archive

Winter 2011/12

COTAG is geared up for winter

It is unlikely that there will have been many residents of Grampian Region who will have failed to notice the amount of snow that fell over the past two or three winters. Significant and in many cases disruptive snowfalls replaced the previous complacency caused by a long sequence of mild, wet winters.

Whilst heavy snow may benefit Scotland's ski industry it is often not welcomed by the country's many drivers. In the last few years many people have experienced some significant disruption to their daily lives as they struggled to work or to school through deep snow. Needless to say COTAG has been busy during these times assisting Grampian Police and Grampian NHS, both of which have a Memorandum of Understanding in place with COTAG.

Acknowledging this, COTAG stepped up its schedule of training days throughout 2011 and this is being extended further for 2012. All COTAG crew members must attend a minimum of four official training days per annum in order to be retained on the active call-out list. Refresher training days in advanced on and off-road driving have been planned, and regular training with winches and other recovery equipment have been tabled.

Hoping for the best but preparing for the worst is central to COTAG's outlook on winter weather, and in fact the weather in general. That is why the training undertaken is conducted to professional standards and why all crew members have a mandatory number of training days per year. There are no armchair drivers on the callout crew list in COTAG, just another reasonwhy the professionals such as Grampian Police can call upon us with confidence.

September 2010

COTAG conducts its fifth annual multi-agency exercise

COTAG held its 2010 annual exercise on Sunday 5th September near Alford in Aberdeenshire in conjunction with members of the British Red Cross. Read the full account

January 2010

COTAG praised as "snow heroes"

COTAG has been praised by the Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Richard Lochhead MSP. COTAG has been providing volunteer support to the WRVS to help deliver Meals on Wheels to the elderly and infirm as well as rescuing dozens of motorists whose vehicles became stuck in the treacherous blizzards that swept the region. One of the vehicles pulled out of a drift was a council gritter.

Richard Lochhead MSP said:

As Scotland is in grip of the harshest winter weather conditions in decades, we are all faced with the daily challenge of going about our usual business. Across the country this is affecting transport links and travel conditions when it is more important than ever to keep our vital services working and deliver essential supplies to our most vulnerable citizens.

I am hugely impressed with the community off-road action group volunteers, who are giving up their time to work in extreme and often dangerous conditions, to support the work of local emergency, healthcare and other vital services.

Praising also the work of the Forestry Commission in helping local authorities he added:

All these efforts by our snow heroes are helping to tackle the problems created by this unusually bad weather and keep Scotland's vital services on the move.

COTAG with various officials

Grampian Police have also commented on COTAG's role. Chief Inspector Hugh Mackie, Deputy Divisional Commander for Moray Division commented

Grampian Police work in close partnership with a vast number of voluntary groups and we recognise the vital role they have within our communities. The recent challenges of the adverse weather conditions demonstrates the strength of these partnerships and this was evident when we have worked along with COTAG under the auspices of the Memorandum of Understanding we have with the group.

While they are not an emergency or rescue service, COTAG are an extremely willing and receptive group of volunteers who work particularly well with the Police, providing us with excellent logistical support. I look forward to the continuation of our positive relationship with COTAG and will have no hesitation calling upon them when the need arises.

COTAG-Moray changes name

COTAG-Moray, the founding COTAG team, is to change its name to 'COTAG 4x4 Response'. In parallel with this COTAG-Aberdeenshire will merge with the former Moray team. This will result in a single team initially concentrated upon the Moray and northern Aberdeenshire areas of Grampian Region.

Sue Rodwell, Team Leader of COTAG-Moray said<

This is something that has been in the planning stages for a long time and we have now reached the point where the timing is right. The Moray and Aberdeenshire teams have been growing in number and merging them under a single consolidated name makes sense. COTAG has spread from Moray where it started and now has volunteers throughout much of Aberdeenshire. It also fits to change the name to one we have actually been using unofficially for some time. COTAG 4x4 Response is a name many people now know and it also helps convey more clearly what we are about.

Tony Tipping, Team Leader of COTAG-Aberdeenshire added

This is the right thing for COTAG at exactly the right time. Numbers have been swelling and COTAG's reach has extended far south of its original operational area. It makes sense to merge the teams now.

September 2008

COTAG Annual Exercise 2008

On Sunday 7th September 2008 COTAG 4x4 Response held its third annual exercise at its off road training area in northern Aberdeenshire. Exercise 'Fallen Eagle' was based upon the scenario of a light aircraft coming down in fog on a remote hillside while urgently carrying medical supplies and personnel to the Scottish islands. Sadly there has been one aircraft loss annually in Grampian Region over the past three years, so the basic scenario was realistic.

Read the full account

August 2008

COTAG signs agreement with Grampian Police

COTAG-Moray 4x4 Response has achieved a critical milestone in its history, and in the history of volunteer 4x4 response organisations as a whole. On Friday the 29th of August 2008 the Moray team signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Grampian Police making it the first such organisation to achieve this in Scotland. Although other 4x4 response teams in the UK do work with the emergency services it is believed that this is the first formally documented association of its type in the UK.

Grampian Police officer and COTAG personnel with vehicles.

After several years of development and extensive crew training COTAG-Moray 4x4 Response is now able to officially assist the emergency services and local authorities with vehicle logistics in times of need.

Grampian Police Superintendent Alan Smailes of Moray Division in Elgin said:

"We've been working with the Moray-based COTAG volunteers for almost two years to ensure they meet with the stringent requirements when working alongside the police and other services."

"They are a very skilled group with their own specialised 4x4 vehicles who will be able to assist us at times of severe weather or similar situations where we may need access to difficult terrain through snow or flood."

The signing of the MoU with Grampian Police, the senior Category 1 responder service, is a landmark event for the COTAG 4x4 Response group. It represents the culmination of several years of training and development to produce a volunteer team of a sufficient standard to assist the professional services. It is a reflection of the high quality, determination and professionalism of the COTAG-Moray volunteers.

July 2008

COTAG-Aberdeenshire wins Lottery grant award

COTAG-Aberdeenshire is delighted to announce that its application for a Lottery grant from Awards for AllLink to external site has been successful. The grant application was for £9,990 and has been awarded in full.

The award will be spent on core training and essential equipment for new volunteers. The training will include Advanced Driving, first stage off-road driving certification, First Aid and Child Protection. Equipment will include high visibility personal protective clothing, reflective markings for vehicles and HF/VHF radios.

A Press Release exists for this news item.

March 2008

Radio training successes

Five members of COTAG recently attended an intensive HF/ VHF Link to external site radio training course in Keith, Moray. Three members of COTAG-Moray plus two new members of COTAG-Aberdeenshire were trained and coached in the operation and use of HF/VHF radio. This culminated in all five people sitting the RSGBLink to external site Foundation Level examination, and COTAG is pleased to report that all passed.

At the same time as the successes reported above, another member of COTAG-Aberdeenshire successfully completed a course in Maritime VHF. This is a special radio licence that allows the holder to speak to boat and ship crews, something the RSGB Foundation licence does not permit.

Vehicle-mounted HF/VHF radio is an essential tool for COTAG crew members allowing communications over terrain that would defeat CB radio Link to external site . Although CB radio rigs are also fitted to several COTAG vehicles this is really only for convoy use and has extremely limited range.

The RSGB Foundation radio licence is a mandatory minimum requirement for all COTAG crew members. Anyone using HF/VHF radio must be licensed to do so unless operating under the supervision of a licence holder.

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