Search And Rescue Volunteers Descend On Buckskin Scout Camp In Pocahontas This Weekend
Dunmore, WV – Starting this Friday afternoon, the Buckskin Boy Scout camp in Pocahontas County will be a beehive of activity. Search and Rescue [SAR] volunteers, including ground, air, ATV, equine and K-9 units will descend on the camp for their annual spring training exercise. Bill Kershner is the Operations Planning Manager and the Search and Rescue Coordinator for the West Virginia Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. He says they anticipate a large group at the Dilley’s Mill camp.
“We have all of our Search and Rescue groups from around the state, the Civil Air Patrol will be there, I think National Guard or West Virginia Aviation will also be there” says Kershner. “And we’ve invited all the local first responders from emergency management, EMS, Fire, Police, anyone who wants to join in the exercise or learn more about Search and Rescue.”
Kershner says they hold the training exercise in different areas of the state each year. Last year it was at the site of the new Boy Scout camp in Fayetteville.
“So this year, we just happened to go to the other Boy Scout Reservation in the state” he says, “and Pocahontas County is a very good venue to do this thing because we do have a lot of wilderness there and people do go missing.”
Kershner says he started the state SAR program four years ago. The impetus was a search for Jacob Allen, an autistic young man who got lost near Dolly Sods.
“I realized that we did not have a program, so I came back and talked to our Director, and he said well, put one together” he says. “So here we are, some four years together and we’ve got a pretty decent program compared to other states. We’ve got over 200 people now coming to the exercise as far as I know. And that’s the ones that I am planning for, and there’s usually a few more that straggle in that hear about it from everywhere.”
He says there are currently 12 active SAR teams in West Virginia and the Shavers Fork Fire Dept recently hosted a training session to get a SAR team started in Pocahontas. Without giving anything away, Kershner talks a little bit about the exercise this weekend.
“This one is called Operation Be Prepared” he says. “The purpose of an exercise is to test different things. Usually when we have an exercise, we take care of them from the time they get there til the time they leave as far as feeding and care, and that sort of thing; but that’s not real world. So this time we’re doing it the way we would really do a real search there.”
He says starting Friday afternoon, Shavers Fork will initiate and run the first few hours of the exercise without help from the state or other groups.
“Then Friday evening, we’ll bring in our other assets, and all day Saturday” says Kershner. “We’ll be testing a lot of our newer communication gear, how we coordinate with the aviation units, and how teams work together. Also, we’ll have a separate search for our cadaver dogs; have a separate mission for them to do along with the police and support team to get them better acquainted on how to work with each other.”
For Kershner, this exercise is an excuse to come home, as he grew up on Droop Mountain. Most of all, he wants to make sure that folks know about the exercise.
“Mainly don’t be alarmed if you see some red, white and blue aircraft out there flying over around the Boy Scout area and around the Observatory, or hear strange radio traffic that may have come across their scanner and that sort of thing” he says. “Don’t be alarmed and call 911, because it’s just us doing an exercise.”
The SAR training exercise at the Buckskin Scout Camp begins Friday, April 8th and runs through Sunday, April 10th.