The Stanly News and Press (Albemarle, NC)

January 28, 2013

Weather limits training

By Brian Graves, Staff Writer

Monday, January 28, 2013 — The clouds may have hung too low for a full blown rehearsal, but area emergency crews find themselves always ready for any weather if someone is in need of rescue.

Members of more than 14 area and state agencies came together last week at Camp Barnhardt for the NCHART training.

Those five capital letters stand for North Carolina Helicopter Aquatic Rescue Team and it represents a combined effort of thousands of paid and volunteer emergency personnel from across the state.

It represents a highly-specialized team consisting of North Carolina National Guard assets matched with state emergency management and local services personnel.

Together, that combination forms a mission ready package for helicopter based rescues using the Blackhawk helicopter.

The idea is to coordinate military and civil rescue services for specialized rescue circumstances.

Brian Barnes, state search and rescue coordinator for the North Carolina Depart-ment of Public Safety, explained the three-day event brings together resources that already exist and teaches the proper utilization of those assets in the case of an emergency.

“There’s no use buying a helicopter when you have the National Guard who already has very capable aviator platforms and Highway Patrol’s resources who can provide those services. This really gets some extra benefit for North Carolina,” Barnes said.

Had the weather been cooperative, Barnes ex-plained what sort of training would have been taking place.

“There would be some survivors on the ground, the Blackhawk comes in, then they form a plan on how to perform the rescue and take them to a safe place,” Barnes said.

“We would then reset the entire exercise to allow everyone to go through the same scenarios.”

Barnes said the NCHART program has been extremely successful, having been designed especially for flood rescues.

“We’ve also been able to do rescues at Linville Gorge and the Black Balsam area where it is very rugged terrain and using the helicopter allows it to be safer for the rescuers instead of sending in 100 workers needing eight hours to carry someone out,” Barnes said.

He said this particular training is done every quarter, but there are other training functions that occur every month.

There are three separate helicopters that are used by rescue teams and Barnes said that allows for more flexibility depending on the conditions of the moment.

“It’s really a team effort,” Barnes said.

“No one person can do this all alone. It’s a group of folks from all over that really makes it happen.”

He said the exercises combine both paid and volunteer workers.

“There’s really no difference,” Barnes said. “We’re all professionals and that’s what it’s all about.”

Emergency workers share a camaraderie between them and Barnes says that is an important factor in the way they work.

“That’s one of the benefits in this training you really can’t put a number on because this brings local responders, helicopter folks, and military pilots to the same table,” Barnes said.

“While they are taking breaks, they are able to talk about how to do things better. It helps us to be that much better and it’s those relationships that are really key.

“It’s not about the National Guard saying ‘We’ll do this’ or EMTs saying ‘We’ll do this,’ it’s all of us coming together saying somebody needs help and we’re all coming together doing everything we can to provide those resources to get that help to them. It’s North Carolina coming together to make this happen.”