Hammocks Beach State Park hosts air, water rescue team training

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SWANSBORO, N.C. (WNCT) — Hammocks Beach State Park hosted helo-aquatic rescue training, or HART, exercises on Monday and Tuesday for 12 local, state and federal rescue agencies.

The exercise provides joint operations training for air and water rescue teams.

The training is designed to prepare units to implement scenarios that could occur in eastern North Carolina, such as Hurricane Matthew flooding.

“Hurricane Matthew brought about some of this because we did have issues where we had a lot of aircraft in the airspace and we had to work out these de-conflictions,” Norman Bryson, Onslow County Emergency Services Director, said. “In our area, we wanted to make sure we worked those out early on.”

By carrying out the exercise in the Intracoastal Waterway, units were able to train in moving water as opposed to stagnant water. Divers dangling from 100 foot long ropes plunged into the water to rescue survivors.

“Whether you’re a federal, county or state entity, it’s all about teamwork,” Lt. Commander Elizabeth Buendia with the U.S. Coast Guard said. “We are working together to make the coast as safe as possible. We are constantly training to be ready when there is a case for an emergency like this.”

The training exercise is meant to improve communications between the different agencies.

“If this were a real incident, we would want to know who these people are to communicate with them,” Hammocks Beach State Park Superintendent Sarah Kendrick said. “So being able to practice this sort of thing is really beneficial for us in the long run if we were to ever have a true large emergency.”

After being rescued from the water, the survivors were dropped off on land. Crews ran the rescue scenarios several times over the course of the day.

“Partnerships that we’re building today are going to make us that much more effective when there is a real emergency,” Lt. Commander Buendia said. “People are meeting each other and we know who to call when there is an event so we can work together more efficiently.”

The park location also provided a real scenario where first responders would deal with boats, ferries, and tourists.

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