SMYRNA, Tenn. – Members from the Tennessee National Guard, Tennessee Emergency Management Agency, Nashville Fire Department, Rutherford County's StormPoint Emergency Response team and others participated in a joint water rescue exercise April 9.
Tennessee's Helicopter Aquatic Rescue Team, a joint rescue crew with a Tennessee National Guard UH-60L Black Hawk helicopter and aircrew with rescue personnel from the Nashville Fire Department, practiced rescuing drowning victims in Stewarts Creek.
"It's critical that we all train together," said Lt. Col. Jay Jackson, the military liaison for TEMA. "Doing this with people you've never met would be dangerous during a real world emergency, especially in hazardous conditions. That's not when we should be working together for the first time."
During the training event, the Tennessee National Guard helicopter crew lowered a Nashville Fire Department diver into the lake by hoist. The diver swam to the victims, provided aid, and readied them for rescue. Strapping the victims to the rescue strop, diver hooking themselves to the rescue cable and hoisted out of the water into the hovering helicopter. The crew simulated first aid as the survivors were airlifted to the nearest hospital.
"These exercises allow us to streamline the process and strengthen the relationships between the Tennessee National Guard and our state and local partners," said Jackson. "It is all meant to ensure that we are ready to respond to emergencies and protect our fellow citizens. Some of these maneuvers can be dangerous, especially during inclement weather, and we need to be ready."
This year's exercise included an additional element: an unmanned aerial systems team from StormPoint Emergency Response who provided a live feed of the training to the state operations center. Additionally, the team completed a mission delivering life vests to the simulated drowning victims before the HART team's arrival.
"Our job during this training exercise was to provide situational awareness for the water rescue exercise," said Russell Bradshaw, StormPoint Emergency Response executive director. "We were able to use the drone to locate the victims and provide coordinates and information for the inbound rescue team."
This new capability enhances the Tennessee National Guard's ability, along with local and state partners, to respond to numerous situations, including difficult-to-reach accident sites and major natural disasters, rapidly.
"This new joint capability for Tennessee not only benefits Tennesseans in the event of a disaster but will also be a deployable resource to neighboring states in the event of a disaster out of our area," said Jackson.
The HART team has already completed a successful mission. In October 2020, an injured hiker in North Carolina was successfully hoisted and transported safely to the nearest hospital.