‘Think safety all the time’

Local, state, federal agencies involved in search and rescue drill at Kerr Lake
Aug. 08, 2014 @ 04:35 PM

The first search and rescue exercise on Kerr Lake — involving military personnel and a Blackhawk helicopter — took place Friday.

A commercial plane crash on the lake with multiple land and water victims was the premise of Friday’s emergency situation.

Boats formed a perimeter around the lake area where the exercise occurred.

Victims stationed on floating docks were airlifted by three helicopters — a UH-60 Blackhawk, UH-72 Lakota and Bell-407.

The North Carolina Helicopter and Aquatic Rescue Team, consisting of the state National Guard and Highway Patrol, are highly trained in helicopter rescue missions.

Rescue teams tethered to the helicopter by a cord and harness were lowered into the water — creating a whirlpool beneath the propellers — and pulled back up along with a mock-victim.

Other helicopter teams carried the rescuer and victim to shore while keeping them suspended in the air.

The exercise involved three federal agencies, six state organizations and 10 county groups.

Brian Short, Vance County director of emergency management, told all the participating agencies to make safety the No. 1 priority.

“I want everyone to think safety all the time,” he said.

Members of the Vance County Board of Commissioners — including Deborah Brown and Dan Brummitt — as well as City Manager Ray Griffin, Mayor Pete O’Geary and several county employees came to observe the event at Henderson Point.

Desree Twisdale, who works at the Vance County Social Services Department, said the exercise gave her confidence that Vance County would be ready if something similar did happen.

“I wanted to see how the agencies work together and coordinate,” she said. “It helps just knowing that if we have an accident they are prepared.”

Perry Memorial Library Director Patti McAnally said she was looking forward to watching the exercise.

“It’s a once in a lifetime chance to get to see something like this and not worry that people are actually hurt,” she said. “It gives us a better understanding of what the community offers and we are able to share with people that we are safe and have a well-prepared emergency response system.”

Contact the writer at smansur@hendersondispatch.com.