Over Two Hundred People Participate In Search And Rescue Exercise In Pocahontas County
Dunmore, WV – Over 200 individuals participated in a Search and Rescue exercise in Pocahontas County this past weekend. When contacted Saturday afternoon, retired West Virginia State Police officer, Bill Kershner, the Operations Planning Manager and the Search and Rescue Coordinator for the West Virginia Division of Homeland Security, was pleased with how the exercise was proceeding.
“It’s going real well; we have 22 separate teams with missions out in the field” he says. “We started out with around 200 participants. We got people not only from the West Virginia teams, we’ve got people from Pennsylvania, Virginia and Ohio.”
Kershner says that coordination among the various teams is a huge benefit and that this exercise was designed to replicate a real world scenario.
“We try to train the way we fight” he says. “If Pocahontas County has a lost person, then the local team will be the first one responding obviously. If it goes usually more than 24 hours; if they see they need more resources then they’ll call me though our office; and I’ll start sending them the closest teams until we get enough people to do the mission.”
Practice is the only way to improve on the skills of the SAR Teams. And Kershner says they try to incorporate new techniques into these exercises.
“We have a lot of people in the field doing what they’re supposed to be doing on their mission tasks” he says. “We have K-9’s out there on trailing missions. We also running a separate Cadaver Dog Exercise. We have police officers working with them, we have a Support Team working with them so everybody gets to see what they do and how to best utilize them.”
One of the most important pieces of equipment in Kershner’s arsenal is the Communications Van. It is equipped with all manner of communications from Cell phones to satellites. He says that they are completely self sufficient and do not plan on, nor in fact, require any outside support. He sites their experience with the Upper Big Branch mine disaster.
“A year ago right now we were down at the Big Branch Mine” he says. “We were one of the first ones there, and the last ones to leave. So when we got there, there was absolutely no communications because they have the same problems that they have here, it’s down in a hole. There’s no cell service, so we brought in Verizon and ATT, that’s some of the resources we can bring in – vendors, and gave everybody a cell phone.”
Due to circumstances beyond his control, Kershner says that the Helicopter and the Civil Air Patrol had to cancel at the last moment. But he says such things are a real world possibilities and did not degrade the exercise.