West Virginia SAR Conducts Exercise At Buckskin Reservation
Dilleys Mill, WV – For the second year in a row, the West Virginia Search and Rescue Program conducted a training exercise at Buckskin Boy Scout Reservation in Pocahontas County. On Saturday, nearly 200 emergency personnel from a multi-state area participated in the exercise. Participating units included search and rescue units, first responders, the Civil Air Patrol, the National Guard, emergency management teams and the Pocahontas County Ham Radio Club.
West Virginia Search and Rescue Coordinator Bill Kershner described the exercise scenario.
“We started off this morning with a simulated plane crash on one of the mountains here across Route 28, with an ELT, which is an emergency transmitter,” he said. “The Civil Air Patrol, flying out of Elkins – their first mission was to locate the debris field – we have a simulated debris field – spot it from the air and pick up on the ELT, and then call back to search command, so we can send ground units out to locate the simulated crash site, and then look for any survivors, after that.”
Kershner, who hails from Droop Mountain, says Pocahontas County is a good location for this type of exercise.
“Northern Pocahontas County, so they have steep terrain in places,” he said. “A few logging roads and trails. The Greenbrier River and power lines and so on and so forth. A mixed bag of terrain. Again, it’s a challenging place to do this. That’s why we come here.”
Two participants were injured on Saturday, one with heat exhaustion and another with a leg injury. Like last year, Tyler County was well represented with a large search and rescue unit, including three search dog teams. Tyler County team leader Melody Crawford says the dogs are valuable team members.
“They’re trained to do air scent or ground searching – ground scent,” she said. “So, we had a scent article today. The dogs – they run out ahead of us on the trial and we wait for them to pick up a scent and follow it. The one I was with – she did fine. She picked up a scent three or four times.”
Crawford says a Tyler County bloodhound, named Brutus, recently located a missing autistic child in a real-life rescue.
“I understand the bloodhound found a young child, recently – an autistic child,” she said. “I think the one I was with today, she’s new, so she’s just kind of getting started on this. I know the other dog here has had several missions.”
Brutus was present and participated in Saturday’s exercise. Tyler County team member Tracie says dogs are used to search on the water, as well.
“Actually, one of my first searches was a water search,” she said. “We was able to locate and tell the divers where to go. Whenever a body sinks, the oils and minute air bubbles come to the top and that’s what the dogs pick up on.”
Pocahontas County Emergency Management director Melvin Martin assisted with exercise command and control. Martin says Pocahontas County is looking for a few good search and rescue volunteers.
“Actually, we’ve got people from everywhere on the search and rescue team,” he said. “It’s something that’s been going on for a good long while. People from every fire department are on it. People who are not on the fire departments. We continually try to get more people on the search and rescue teams.”
Martin says volunteers need to be in good physical condition.
“People that are dedicated, that can actually – physically capable of going out into the woods, on foot, searching and trying to find out where somebody is,” he said.
To find out more about becoming a search and rescue team member, contact your local fire department.