Author Topic: Navigation Training for Lowland SAR Teams  (Read 3462 times)

Rescuerkw

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Navigation Training for Lowland SAR Teams
« on: October 22, 2011, 01:22:11 AM »
The subject of Navigation training is under the microscope at the moment for Lowland SAR teams with a view to establishing a common standard or level of training. Current thinking is leaning towards the National Navigation Award Scheme (NNAS) Bronze and silver levels, but having myself completed Bronze, Silver and Gold levels I am not convinced that this is necessarily the right scheme for our SAR Teams. Don't get me wrong on this, I am very much in favour of having the NNAS 'badge' on what we do, I'm just not convinced that the standard levels that exist are what we need for SAR and personally I would prefer to see something new developed to meet our specific needs where local assessment can be achieved for such a new scheme.

One of the difficulties I see with the existing scheme is that we will need NNAS Assessors to assess our SAR people. Within our UK framework of LSAR teams there are currently very very few NNAS Assessors and to improve that will mean a lot of extra work on the part of a significant number of people (who are already doing a lot of training). Fact is I would be the first to say "go for it" if I really thought it would bring significant benefit, but I don't think it will and consequently I don't feel we need to go that route. Many of our existing trainers within our teams are quite capable of delivering this subject to a very good standard already,  in fact many of them are doing just that. What we need is a bespoke Lowland SAR course that they can continue to deliver locally - but what do you think??? ???

« Last Edit: October 22, 2011, 01:43:08 AM by Rescuerkw »

Lyle Brotherton

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Re: Navigation Training for Lowland SAR Teams
« Reply #1 on: October 24, 2011, 08:35:36 PM »
Excellent posting.

Lots happening with training for ALSAR. At their national conference I offered to train all their team (FOC) in advanced satnav and have made some suggestions about professional accreditation for thier navigational training. Will PM you when I get back.
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Michelle

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Re: Navigation Training for Lowland SAR Teams
« Reply #2 on: October 25, 2011, 08:43:40 PM »
My understanding is that, as a minimum, search technicians should train to the NNAS bronze syllabus. There is no requirement to formally receive the NNAS qualification although if the instructors are available, it makes sense to reward the team as they will be meeting the requirements anyway. The general view was that a syllabus exists and with everything else going on, there is a navigation syllabus we can follow without re-inventing the wheel. Teams can opt to train to a higher standard but when working together, these guidelines will reassure us of the standards of other units assisting.

Lyle has offered free advanced Nav training to ALSAR which will be co-ordinated through the training officer. I believe there is a maximum of 12 per course so with Lyle's commitment and early demand (there are about 900 members of ALSAR), we will put forward our more advanced navigators for this training whilst working with the rest of the team to reach the NNAS Bronze/silver standards. Once they have the basics, we'll then nominate them for the advanced training.

Rescuerkw

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Re: Navigation Training for Lowland SAR Teams
« Reply #3 on: October 26, 2011, 01:09:49 AM »
Thanks for your reply Michelle - it's much appreciated. I have to say I am not in favour of any system that takes the onus for training away from individual teams, who actually do a pretty good job overall - evidenced by the current effectiveness of those same Lowland SAR teams. Having to rely upon external assessors is not my idea of a good way forward and currently, if we want to follow the NNAS rules this is what teams will have to do (in spite of assurances to the contrary). I really would prefer to see a Lowland SAR bespoke scheme with it's own team based assessors and own award levels. There is no reason at all why we can't do that -we don't have to go the NNAS route and actually I don't think it's the right scheme for what we need in Lowland SAR. I say that as someone who has gone through all the training and practice for the three levels and holds NNAS Bronze Silver and Gold awards. But, thank you - I do very much appreciate what you have said.  Best regards Ron

adi

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Re: Navigation Training for Lowland SAR Teams
« Reply #4 on: October 27, 2011, 12:14:19 AM »
Ron

I am not a member of ALSAR nore do I hold a NNAS qualification but I think the reason ALSAR needs to do the NNAS is because they have to be seen to meet national standards. The only way they can do that is by doing nationally recognised qualifications and in this case it is the NNAS qualification. An internal course would not meet the requirements as a qualification already exists.

I know the NNAS qualification standard is a far lower standard than what was originally planned but I don't quite understand why you don't think its the right course for ALSAR. Surely it is a qualification that ensures everyone has an understanding of nav at the same level.       
« Last Edit: October 27, 2011, 12:16:21 AM by adi »
"We do not belong to those who only get their thought from books, or at the prompting of books - it is our custom to think in the open air, walking, leaping, climbing or dancing, of lonesome mountains by preference, or close to the sea, where even the paths become thoughtful." Friedrich Nietzsche

Rescuerkw

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Re: Navigation Training for Lowland SAR Teams
« Reply #5 on: October 27, 2011, 11:47:09 AM »
Hi Adi

I understand what you are saying regarding the NNAS scheme. The only thing I can think is that it must have been "watered down" quite a bit from when I did it a few years ago. When I did Bronze Silver and Gold it involved serious navigation in inhospitable terrain and in unfavourably weather conditions. I cannot see how the standards I was working to then can be replicated in good old East Anglia, where the terrian is "undulating" at the most extreme and flat as a pancake elsewhere - where you cannot easily walk on a bearing unless you go to the local park or wish to enter into an interesting dialogue with the local farmer! Maybe we can replicate some of the weather occasionally, but that's about it.

Also to deliver NNAS courses requires NNAS approved instructors and Assessors, which means that teams are going to have to get people trained to this level. As you know, reaching Assessor level is not about attending a two day course, it's about spending a lot of time in the field building up a log of achievement. That's a huge amount of extra commitment to gain very little compared to the training we do it team currently. What it does mean is that those of us who currently do teach this skill (and to a good standard ), will not be qualified to do so in the future so we will have to bring NNAS Assessors in (at a cost too no doubt). What an utter waste of experience and resource. Sometimes I think we just get too clever about this stuff and in doing so kill the goose that laid the golden egg.
« Last Edit: October 27, 2011, 11:57:07 AM by Rescuerkw »

adi

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Re: Navigation Training for Lowland SAR Teams
« Reply #6 on: October 27, 2011, 02:07:12 PM »
Hi Ron

I hear what you are saying about the instructors and assessors. And I don't know how ALSAR will over come that problem.

Surely the experience and resource can achieve the NNAS approved trainers with time.

For my understanding The Bronze and Silver awards are not rocket science and ideal for the area of East Anglia you are talking about.

Bronze NNAS Award – navigation in the countryside using paths tracks and other linear features, basic map interpretation and compass work is included.

The Learning Outcomes

Understand the nature of a map as a two dimensional plan.
Understand how to use map symbols and scales, on a variety of maps.
Take a 6 figure grid reference for any given position and also locate such a reference on the map.
Orientate the map with and without a compass.
Use the orientated map to identify land features and indicate direction of travel.
Choose simple navigation strategies and routes.
Use linear features (e.g. paths and tracks) as handrails in simple navigation exercises.
Estimate distance on both map and ground.
Using a basic understanding of contours, match major landforms like hills and valleys to their map representation.
Plan a safe, suitable walk.
Relocate using simple techniques on paths and other handrails.
Understand access rights and responsibilities.
Demonstrate an awareness of local and national access issues and access legislation.
Demonstrate knowledge of the Countryside Code, and of procedures to be followed in the event of an emergency.

Silver NNAS Award – navigation in the countryside using skills acquired at bronze level and adding skills required to navigate to features and places some distance from paths and tracks, accurate compass work is required and an ability to use appropriate navigational techniques to go across country in some cases, eg. choosing an appropriate attack point.

The learning outcomes: (additional to those of the Bronze Award)

Devise a strategy for a navigational stage, to break it down into 'coarse' and 'fine' navigation and to use clear features en route to check that they are 'on course'.
Understand and apply the following components of a navigational strategy 'aiming off', 'attack points', 'collecting features', simplifying navigation, and apply them in varying terrain.
Demonstrate an understanding of contour features, both large and small, on the map and on the ground.
Demonstrate an understanding of the navigation physical and factors affecting route choice.
Judge distance accurately on the map and on the ground.
Plan a safe walk or route involving Silver award skills and strategies.
Employ simple relocation strategies when lost.
Use a compass to follow accurate bearings and to check the direction of footpaths or other linear features on both map and ground.
Demonstrate knowledge of the effects of fatigue and physical discomfort brought on by navigating in demanding countryside and/or extreme weather condition. Knowledge of basic first aid is also expected.
Demonstrate knowledge and application of the Countryside Code and current access legislation as for the Bronze level together with an appreciation of basic environmental factors in mixing 'man with nature' (e.g. footpath erosion and methods of dealing with it), and responsibilities towards other countryside interests like farming, forestry and conservation.

I am sure many land owners would allow SAR to train on their land. They have little option to have you on their land during a live deployment. 
"We do not belong to those who only get their thought from books, or at the prompting of books - it is our custom to think in the open air, walking, leaping, climbing or dancing, of lonesome mountains by preference, or close to the sea, where even the paths become thoughtful." Friedrich Nietzsche

Egg

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Re: Navigation Training for Lowland SAR Teams
« Reply #7 on: October 27, 2011, 07:35:09 PM »
Hello All...
A bit more for the NNAS debate and hopefully not too long a post.

Quoting this from the NNAS blurb:
"Providers must register annually with the NNAS if they are to deliver accredited courses. Instructors are required to hold appropriate qualifications such as Walk Group Leader, Mountain Leader, British Orienteering Federation Coach etc."
WGL and ML are qualifications from Mountain Leader Training UK. Navigation is only a small part of their awards, all are geared more to running expeditions in various types of terrain. WGL and ML take time achieve. Apart from passing assessments, an expedition log is required that demonstrates that you have been actively out there doing it over a period of time.
I work for an NNAS Provider who has an ML. That lets him run and assess Bronze and Silver.
So the bottom line is that if an LSAR Team can get someone who has WGL or an ML on board they could probably register as a provider and run those two levels. Gold requires that the assessment is carried out on a separate day by someone not involved in delivering the Gold Course.

Having said all that, for LSAR work Silver would be fine as a base level for navigation. But it should be born in mind that NNAS is an assessment not a qualification. Basically, on that day, over that terrain, in those conditions, that person met the assessment criteria. They are not an all singing and dancing navigator. I saw this perfectly demonstrated by someone with Silver obtained in the Chilterns unable to navigate in poor conditions on the Peak District moors.

It also depends a lot on how the provider decides to assess the criteria. Some set very demanding navigational tasks and expect them to be done properly. Others have a more "relaxed" approach, "you turned up so you've got your certificate".

Navigation is something that is difficult to assess let alone qualify in, because there are so many variables.
NNAS is a good scheme that delivers skills to several thousand people a year. So it certainly has a part to play.
But I think care should be taken not inflate into something that it isn't.




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Rescuerkw

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Re: Navigation Training for Lowland SAR Teams
« Reply #8 on: October 27, 2011, 09:14:12 PM »
Hi Egg (sorry can't find any other name for you)

Thanks for a very interesting piece on this navigation discussion. I think you've clarified something that has clearly confused me. When I did the Silver and gold assessments it was in the Peak District on the White Peak for Silver and the Dark Peak for Gold. The standard of navigation expected was high and for the gold we plotted a route across from Snake Pass to Kinder downfall in falling snow and fog, siting on the person ahead and then moving forward (leapfrogging method). The silver was also testing - the people doing the training set high standards and expected us to meet them. The courses I undertook were all provided by the Peak District National parks Authority at Losehill Hall near Castleton. I have heard they are no longer running them howeer (which is a shame)

But if you are suggesting that other providers take a more relaxed approach then yes I can see how that would work, although the standard would not be the same I suspect. Can't really see how it could be in Lowland areas? - but maybe I'm wrong.

adi

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Re: Navigation Training for Lowland SAR Teams
« Reply #9 on: October 27, 2011, 10:07:36 PM »
As I said in an earlier post the NNAS has been watered down from that first thought of. Ron your tests sound quite challenging and  you silver was well above the standard set by NNAS now.

The problem is the WL and ML has been watered down too, over recent years. The nav side of the course is very poor now.

I never quite understood why the NNAS ever came about, it was not as if what was needed, the cynic in me suggests it was another money making trick. Especially when I inquired about it, they refused to take my past experience and a NVQ in nav into account.

But the fact for is ALSAR to continue being recognised by the authorities has to follow best practice and show competence to its insurers.
"We do not belong to those who only get their thought from books, or at the prompting of books - it is our custom to think in the open air, walking, leaping, climbing or dancing, of lonesome mountains by preference, or close to the sea, where even the paths become thoughtful." Friedrich Nietzsche

Egg

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Re: Navigation Training for Lowland SAR Teams
« Reply #10 on: October 27, 2011, 10:26:38 PM »
Hi Ron...

I think you hit it on the nail on the head when you talked about your NNAS experiences in the Peak District.
That's where I did mine too and it was just as tough. My last assessment day started off in a blizzard and got colder and wetter as the day went by. It certainly focused our minds on why we had been taught some of the navigation techniques.

People I know who have done their courses in lowland areas may have been taught the same things. But they were never really tested when it came to the assessment. The terrain and conditions didn't  demand it. I know of instances where people were just asked what techniques they might use in particular circumstances. Knowing and doing are a bit far apart in my book. That's where  assessment standards are a bit suspect. In my own teaching I expect things to be done. If they tell me how a
problem can be solved I'll always ask them to show me too.

So I would recommend that anyone thinking of doing a course of any sort, not just NNAS, should do it where they will get the most benefit. A lowland person going to the Lakes or Peaks will be far better equipped to breeze through their own environment when they get back.

Bob

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Egg

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Re: Navigation Training for Lowland SAR Teams
« Reply #11 on: October 27, 2011, 10:43:00 PM »
Picking up on Adi's post.

The standard of nav required for WGL and ML has certainly gone down in recent years.
There is only one thin chapter in the handbook on it now.

I still have some original NNAS blurb somewhere, it had a few paragraphs on why the thing was set up. Out of interest I'll try and dig it out.

People have made a lot of money out of NNAS.
It doesn't take many people at £99 a head to make a good living.

The bottom line is that any organisation that wants to be recognised has to live and work to the existing and recognised standards until something better comes along.
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Rescuerkw

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Re: Navigation Training for Lowland SAR Teams
« Reply #12 on: October 28, 2011, 12:08:21 AM »
Thanks Bob and Adi

It's good to talk to fellow navigators and learn a thing or two. Bob are you sure you were not on the same assessment as me? Sounds very familiar, but then that sort of weather is common in the Peaks. 

I agree with you Adi about standards for ALSAR and I agree that we must have the best standards in place. However, we also have to be careful, because sometimes peoples interpretation of what is required from a legal stand point is often very different from what is actually required. Take health and safety as an example. In Norfolk the H & S executive have been conducting a number of seminars to put people right on what is required in law.

I attended one such session recently and was amazed to learn that over half of what we are told is required by "Health & Safety" is not required at all - it's simply been embellished by those who wish to make a meal of it! Clear the H & S executive are quite concerned about this - thus the seminars to try to rectify the distortion! So, you will understand why at look at some of these things with an amount of caution. I have found that people often have a tendency to get over excited and in doing so interpret "legal requirements" wrongly.

Rescuerkw

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Re: Navigation Training for Lowland SAR Teams
« Reply #13 on: October 28, 2011, 12:17:13 AM »
Hi Bob

I agree with you on what you've said about WGL training. I did all the theory some years ago but found that I couldn't get enough practical in without it taking forever as at that time this had to be in upland areas and I was 3 hours from the nearest. So sadly I gave up on that one and have regreted it ever since!! We live and learn.......