High seas achiever

| posted on February 2, 2017


ALBANY Sea Rescue stalwart Chris Johns has received one of Australia’s top awards for emergency services workers.

The distinguished Emergency Services Medal is issued by the Governor General and entitles Mr Johns to attach the initials ESM to his name, but it is more likely he will stick with “Johnsy” and a firm handshake for now.

Receiving the award is remarkable for the 58-year-old Albany Sea Rescue Squad life member when you consider it has a strict quota and is open to full-time emergency services personnel and that Mr Johns is an unpaid part-time volunteer.

But it’s hardly surprising when you consider the job Mr Johns has done both on and off the Southern Ocean during 16 years to lift the standard of sea rescue operations along the South Coast and across WA.

Off the water, he has literally written the book on fast-response rescue and boat-handling techniques and trained more than 200 sea rescue volunteers.

He’s also played a pivotal role in developing and introducing the NAIAD fast-response vessels into service, which have been implemented in sea rescue squads throughout the state for their ability to help reduce critical-response times.

The regard for his understanding of the ocean and the methods he employs has been recognised internationally and saw him land in Sweden several years ago where he had his feet under the table with some of the world’s best sea-rescue minds.

On the water as boat captain and operations coordinator for Albany Sea Rescue, Mr Johns often works in the most treacherous conditions and often against the rising tide of bureaucracy to do a difficult job.

He cannot speak highly enough of his fellow volunteers and acknowledges their level of commitment, whether they are manning radios at the squad’s Emu Point headquarters or are out on the water with him getting smashed in six-metre swells.

But he sings the loudest praise for his wife Debbie.

“This award is half Debbie’s,” he said.

‘There should really be a part A and B for an award like this.

“Volunteering is an impost emotionally and financially and without their (spouse) support you cannot volunteer.”

Mr Johns will receive his medal at a ceremony at Government House.