What is a H.E.R.O.?


When the International Maritime Rescue Federation announced its inaugural H.E.R.O. (Honouring Excellence in Rescue Operations) Awards earlier this month, it was the realization of a vision that was sparked in early 2014 during the 45th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.

What does the Apollo moon landing have to do with search and rescue?

As an aerospace engineer who once worked on the Space Shuttle Discovery program, I remember reading with interest an article that my colleague Sheri Ascencio shared with me.  The article, “The Unsung Heroes of the Apollo Program”, featured a handful of the 400,000 people involved with the Apollo mission – from the engineers who developed the lunar and command modules to the seamstress who stitched the astronaut spacesuits. Without these key individuals, Neil Armstrong’s “Giant Leap for Mankind” would not have become a reality.

It got me thinking about the search and rescue industry…

  • Why were the majority of search and rescue-related stories and articles that I read or watched about the person being rescued?
  • Why not focus on the people behind the rescue – the emergency control center operator who first gets the emergency call, the rescue coordinator who choreographs the rescue efforts, the rescue teams who often risk their own lives to save the lives of others?
  • What about the people and companies who developed the technologies that are so critical to the search and rescue effort?
  • Why not recognize the inventors of existing, innovative search and rescue technologies such as AIS Man Overboard beacons, fully-redundant aviation ELT distress beacons or specialized search and rescue tracking and monitoring software systems?
  • Why not highlight the developers of emerging, state-of-the-art technologies including next-generation MEOSAR satellite systems, second generation emergency beacons, drone-based rescue vessels and others that will shape the future of industries for years to come?

These are real heroes – people who dedicate their lives to saving others, people whose work is often unrecognized, people who deserve to be thanked in public and in front of their peers for their efforts.

The award concept and even the H.E.R.O. acronym made perfect sense.  Now the question was, “Who should be the award owner?”

The awards needed to be owned and, ultimately, presented by an independent, recognized search and rescue industry authority such as the IMRF (not a search and rescue vendor such as McMurdo).  The IMRF has been instrumental in the development of training initiatives, educational programs and awareness activities to improve search and rescue efforts globally and in industries beyond maritime.  Bottom line, they are one of foremost authorities in the search and rescue industry and would add credibility to the awards.

So when the opportunity came to share this vision with IMRF CEO Bruce Reid, I more than happily took the train from our Portsmouth, UK office to central London for the meeting.

Bruce and the entire IMRF team embraced the idea of the H.E.R.O. awards with open arms, and after that meeting in a London hotel lobby, after further discussions in Singapore’s Clarke Quay and after countless telephone calls and emails, this new joint vision – to recognize the true heroes behind search and rescue – finally became a reality.

For more information on the IMRF H.E.R.O. Awards and to nominate a search and rescue hero, please visit www.imrfhero.org.