06/16/11 — Wayne, surrounding counties take part in search-and-rescue exercise

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Wayne, surrounding counties take part in search-and-rescue exercise

By Gary Popp
Published in News on June 16, 2011 1:46 PM

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Local law enforcement officials gathered Wednesday at Lane Tree Golf Club to practice and observe some rescue techniques. The day included a mock helicopter water rescue.

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Deputies with the Wayne County Sheriff's Office listen as state emergency response officials discuss the latest techniques in search-and-rescue operations. About 75 members from area rescue, fire and law enforcement units took part in a training exercise Wednesday at the Lane Tree Golf Club.

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Michael Kelly/Special to the News-Argus

Emergency services put on a rescue display at Lane Tree Golf Club. The Wayne County Sheriff's Office helicopter lowered a diver into the pond for the mock rescue.

Rescue units from 14 agencies from Wayne and surrounding counties took part Wednesday in a training workshop and exercise at the Lane Tree Golf Club.

The purpose of the exercise was to allow the various teams to interact with one another, get to know one another better and to hear state officials discuss the latest in training and techniques.

The event was capped by a practice helicopter rescue that involved a number of choppers from different agencies.

"It is a networking opportunity," said Randy Rogers, chief of Arrington Volunteer Fire Department, one of the units involved.

Rogers said cooperation between fire departments, rescue squads and law enforcement agencies is crucial to successful emergency missions. Many situations call for units from different counties to work together.

"It is better to get to know each other on a good day, like this, so when things do go bad we are not working with strangers," Rogers said.

About 75 men and women took part in the day's exercise, which was sponsored by the Wayne County Office of Emergency Services, the Arr-Mac Search and Rescue Team and the Wayne County Sheriff's Office, with the support of the North Carolina Division of Emergency Manage-ment.

The event included a number of experts discussing various aspects of search and rescue operations, from water rescues to K-9 searches to situations calling for help from the air. It included demonstration by several K-9 units and a rescue simulation by the state's Helicopter and Aquatic Rescue Team.

Lining the golf course's parking lot and entry road were static displays, featuring the latest in equipment and personnel from the agencies who use the gear.

The Sampson County Dive Team was one of the agencies that set up a static display, which included high-tech sonar equipment, wet and dry suits and other diving gear. Sampson County Dive Team rescue/recovery diver and dive medical technician advanced Carmine Colantuono responded to questions from professionals from other agencies. The unit was recently involved in the search for a 10-year-old Greene County boy who drowned at a fishing spot on the Neuse River in western Lenoir County.

"Whenever any of these agencies are called out, somebody is having a bad day. We don't always save a life, but we try to mitigate the loss and hurt," Colantuono said.

The helicopter rescue exercise was based on a potential drowning in the golf course lake. Choppers from the Wayne County Sheriff's Office, state Highway Patrol, U.S. Coast Guard, Army National Guard and Marine Corps also were involved and on display.

Mike Sprayberry, deputy director of state Department of Emergency Management, called the workshop "outstanding." He praised the Wayne County units for their expertise and dedication.

"The leadership demonstrated by this county is outstanding," Sprayberry said. "Mel Powers (the county Emergency Management and Security Director) and Sheriff (Carey Winders) spoke good messages today."

Sprayberry said Wayne is considered by state officials to be one of the top counties in the state in its ability to respond to emergencies and in its ability and readiness to help other counties in times of emergency.

He added that the state expects counties to be mainly self-sufficient in most situations but that not every county has the same abilities and having one nearby that can respond or provide backup is often the key to saving lives.

"Readiness is what we are all about," he said.