Harmonious working between emergency workers has moved up a notch in the islands, as a Stornoway-based senior Coastguard officer takes on a new senior role in search and rescue.

HM Coastguard area commander Murdo Macaulay (AC18) has recently completed two years’ development work to be appointed one of the first four Coastguard search advisers (CGSA) in the UK.

He’ll now have a national remit to lead missing person searches not just in the Western Isles, Skye and Lochaber region, but anywhere in the country, working alongside and for Police Search Advisers (POLSA).

The development and training that goes along with the role has built on the Western Isles’ strong record of excellent multi-agency working in missing person searches.

Murdo said: “The kind of searches that police search advisers get involved in can be bigger and more critical than those which traditionally get referred to the Coastguard service, but being a CGSA means that we will manage searches in a way that fits with the existing processes of Police Scotland, harmonising with them as we already do in the Western Isles.

“The successful completion of the first stage of this programme is partly thanks to the close relationships we already have with other agencies here at home. Search is our most frequently-employed discipline and can last minutes or days. By the end of the three-year programme there will be six officers around our district who will be qualified as search advisers.”

As part of the skill upgrade needed to develop the new capacity, search technicians in the islands have been undergoing more rigorous training and Murdo has accompanied Stornoway Coastguard Rescue Team to participate in two recent major searches in Skye and Kyle of Localsh.

Additional training recently has also included the introduction of a programme to train all CRTs and duty officers as dementia friends, delivered by Alzheimers Scotland Lewis and Harris.

Murdo said: “By understanding the illnesses that are collectively labelled as dementia we will be able to respond better when faced with a missing person with dementia. We’re all in it for the benefit of the missing person, or the casualty, and we work extremely well with other agencies to achieve a good outcome.”

Picture shows Murdo Macaulay (centre) during planning for a recent missing person search with members of Ness, Bragar and Stornoway CRTs.