SARA (Severn Area Rescue Association) is the Inshore Rescue boat and Land Search organisation covering the Severn Estuary and the surrounding area. It has lifeboat stations at Beachley (under the old Severn Bridge), Sharpness, Tewkesbury and Wyre Forest. As well as being involved with such roles as Mountain Rescue, Swiftwater Rescue and Flooding Support, its lifeboats are tasked by the coastguard to incidents in and around the Severn Estuary, or by Police, Ambulance, Fire and Rescue Services to the rivers Severn, Avon, Wye, Monnow, Ebbw, Bristol Avon and Usk.
But there is a major problem with communications in some areas, particularly in the Wye Valley between Chepstow and Monmouth, where neither SARA's own radios nor mobile phone coverage is at all reliable and the co-ordination of search and rescue operations is then put at risk.
The solution is in the shape of a strategically placed "repeater" station which accepts weak radio signals and then relays them back to the Beachley station at another frequency. A recent test showed that a repeater sited at Pelham Hall could successfully relay signals from Tintern back to Beachley, something which was previously impossible.
SARA then approached the Pelham Hall Committee with a plan to mount a repeater station on a permanent basis. The committee were shown an aerial and it was agreed to allow one to be placed at the far end of the Hall overlooking the tennis courts.
Work on this project has now started and, on Thursday Nov 18 2010, a small group (including Vin Godier from the Pelham Hall Committee together with Project Engineers Steve Trott and Chris Dean) assembled to decide the positioning of the aerial and its control box.
The team was augmented by a group of Sixth Form Physics students from HMSG led by their contact teacher, Mrs Anne Kavanagh, taking part in an Engineering Education Scheme Wales project. The scheme has been operating in Wales since 1989 and involves a professional engineer from a link company (communications company Alcatel-Lucent in this case) who works with a team of up to six, high ability Year 12/13 students and their teacher for a period of 5-6 months on a real engineering project. The scheme provides a launch, a university workshop and an awards and presentation day.
The girls have been involved with the project for some weeks now and spent the visit in surveying Pelham Hall with a view to advising on the exact position of the control box. Their next "date" is with the Pelham Hall committee on December 6th when they will deliver a presentation on progress so far.
HMSG team brief
Severn Area Rescue Association makes use of VHF Radio Communications for both Marine and Land Search and Rescue operations. Radio Communications using VHF is predominately line of sight so suffers when used in areas such as the Wye river valley. Cell phone coverage does not provide an alternative. SARA has had an aspiration to install a radio repeater to provide coverage of the Wye Valley for some time.
The brief is to turn the aspiration into a reality by project managing the planning, design, deployment and on completion testing of the coverage though out the valley. The role is to project manage installation successfully using resources provided by SARA.