Saturday, January 05, 2013

Helicopter search and rescue team practicing on Isle of Palms

WCIV-TV | ABC News 4 - Charleston News, Sports, Weather 

Don’t be alarmed if you hear or see a number of helicopters flying over the East Cooper area today. 

A helicopter aquatic rescue team is holding its quarterly training session at Isle of Palms County Park this weekend.

According to a release from the S.C. Emergency Response Task Force, helicopters should arrive at the park about 10:15 a.m. today and will be conducting exercises in the area until 5 p.m. On Sunday, the helicopters were expected to arrive at 9:30 a.m. and leave the park at 4:30 p.m.

The rescue team is a joint operation that combines helicopters and pilots from the S.C. Army National Guard and rescue swimmers from the State Urban Search and Rescue program.

This weekend’s training is to consist of practicing “lifting” victims from the ocean in front of the park and transporting them to a grassy area of the park. Organizers expect the training to be noisy. 

 Charleston, S.C. (WCIV) -- Multiple layers of wetsuits and life jackets will protect the volunteer "survivors." 

"You get to see how other agencies like fire department or SC heart, something like that it's just really cool to see how much more efficient we can be through these trainings and bring it back to the beaches," said Tim Mack, an Isle of Palms lifeguard.

Mack usually saves people, but for this drill he will be rescued by members of the South Carolina Army National Guard.

"They are definitely necessary.  It helps things run more smoothly when we have these practice sessions, because even though we can train for every scenario, we train for what we can and then go from there," said Mack.

Mack is one of about 100 volunteers who will spend the weekend practicing helicopter aquatic rescues at the Isle of Palms County Park.

"We have a lot of people visit the island every year.  We have a lot of our own rescue personnel in the summer with our jet skis and boats finding people that get stranded on the water, but sometimes we never know when we will need a major rescue effort," said Dick Cronin, IOP Mayor.

In addition to the National Guard, local and state fire and rescue agencies will also be training.

"We specialize is swift water rescue, flood rescue and mountain rescue," said Daniel McManus, state coordinator for search and rescue. He says every 90 days these hybrid training sessions take place.

"We get to work out all different issues that we may find or may not have. We get to practice here at our own pace and make good money as we call it or good progress on the rescue side," said McManus.

McManus says they will attempt to make 45 hoists from boats, but the end goal is to help the local agencies learn something new.

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