Surprise emergency helps rescue agencies train

<I>KEVIN HEIMBIGNER photo</I><BR>Driving a wave runner, Greg McLeod of the South Pacific County Technical Rescue Team and a rescue swimmer safely bring in a volunteer during a surprise emergency response exercise. A simulated fishing boat capsizing led to several agencies working together to retrieve six people in the water.

FORT CANBY-June 24 an interagency response to a simulated emergency of an over-turned fishing vessel occurred near the North Jetty. Five volunteers in survival gear were in the icy waters of the Pacific and one mannequin was used to act as a drowning victim.

Fire District No. 1 Chief Tom O'Donohue said, "The operation went smoothly despite us being very short-handed." There were no warnings of the simulated disaster. The exercise was part of a series of trials used by area response teams to insure optimum help can be given to those in need.

O'Donohue said the rescue mission was made more difficult because there was only one wave runner available at the time of the simulated disaster.

People from the Coast Guard, local law enforcement, medical and ambulance staff, Washington Parks Department, and fire and rescue personnel all worked together during the mission.

Two 47-foot motor lifeboats from Cape Disappointment dashed from point to point locating the volunteers in the ocean. Also in the water was a wave runner manned by Greg McLeod of the South Pacific County Technical Rescue Team and a rescue swimmer.

"By having a surprise operation we get more realistic responses from how everyone functions," O'Donohue said. Some drills are planned for and undertaken periodically to test equipment and procedures and others are surprises such as the one June 24.

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