Pearl River County Search and Rescue holds training

Published 7:00 am Saturday, May 26, 2018

Last Saturday the Pearl River County Joint Search and Rescue team came together for a day of field training.

Search and Rescue coordinator Steve Seal said the effort was organized about three years ago in response to a pressing need for this type of service in the county. He said it started with being able to help hunters and boaters in need of help and has since expanded. Seal said volunteers train to provide emergency assistance to people in and out of the county.

The team has since attracted the membership of professional volunteers. Seal said the team includes rope technicians and experts in the areas of swift water rescue, over-land search and rescue and navigation. Some of the volunteers are teenagers who are children of full-time first responders. He said the team is a coalition of firefighters, law enforcement officers and trained citizens.

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Saturday’s training covered first aid, FEMA emergency symbols, rope rescue skills and overall wide-area search and rescue skills in the event of a natural disaster like a hurricane or tornado.

The training started early in the morning with classes and rope training. At about 11 a.m., the group split into two groups and prepared for a large-scale simulation.

The scenario was designed to simulate what would happen if a tornado caused damage in a town like Picayune. Victim markers were scattered across the training field and included each victim’s age, injuries and whether they were able to move on their own. The scenarios put imaginary victims into hypothetical situations that would require each volunteer to utilize the skills they have at their disposal.

One such scenario involved using the fire station’s life-sized training dummy to represent a victim trapped under an object. The “victim’s” injuries were injuries and would require the team to have to excavate him using heavy equipment, before having to lift him out of a dangerous area and onto a bridge utilizing ropes and a basket.

The training groups also practiced conducting searches – such as a preliminary search to assess the storm damage, a second search to help victims with minor injuries who could move on their own and a final search to rescue victims who would need extra care and extrication using heavy equipment.

The search groups each had 10 minutes to conduct their assessments, draw a map of the area and report back to Seal.

When the final group found the dummy hidden in the woods, Seal told them that they would need to carry it to the fire station’s training tower and lift it to the top for an imaginary “air-lift” from the “bridge.”

Several of the volunteers worked together to pull the “victim” out of the woods, carry him to the bottom of the tower and strap him into a specialized basket. Volunteer Angela England strapped herself into a harness and guided the basket as it was lifted up the tower.

After the basket was raised and the victim saved, the simulation was deemed a success.

Seal said the team welcomes anyone who is interested in search and rescue. He said everyone is welcome as long as they are willing to put in the time and effort to train.