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State and local officials conduct rescue training like this four times a year, according to Bill Simmons of Lincoln County Emergency Management. The exercises help both rescuers on the water and NC Air National Guard pilots and their Helicopter Aquatic Rescue Teams.
“This gives our rescuers some training in trying to cable them (victims) up and get them ready to hoist,” Simmons said Wednesday. “And one of the main things we’re doing is trying to give the pilots enough air time to be able to do this.”
Dion Burleson, a Denver Fire Department spokesman, explained that Wednesday’s training involved rescuing a group of victims in one fell swoop.
“The exercise we’re doing today involves picking up multiple people out of one boat,” Burleson said. “What you can do is bring a helicopter in, if it’s in a swift water situation, hook all those people up and bring them out of the boat as a group and talk them all at one time to safety.”
Lake residents will see the Blackhawk helicopters for one more day, as the training continues from 10am to 6pm on Thursday.
The National Guard’s HART program was one of the first in the nation to begin regimented training alongside civilian rescue personnel, according to officials involved in the training. NC HART teams were used after hurricanes Frances and Ivan in 2004 to rescue about 350 residents fro fast moving water and isolated areas, where landslides cut off roads and escape routes. Since then, the teams have conducted a variety of other rescues, including pulling stranded hikers from remote mountain areas.