Search And Rescue teams practice at Lantz Farm
Search and Rescue members from the Tyler County Office of Emergency Management gathered at the Jacksonburg Volunteer Fire Department on Saturday for a morning of training in weather management and an afternoon of search and rescue exercises at the Lantz Farm and Nature Preserve Trail.
Meteorologist Julia Ruthford, an IMET specialist from the Charleston, W.Va., office, of the National Weather Service, presented those in attendance with information on how to read weather maps and the many signs to watch for as they prepare for a search and rescue mission. Ruthford, also a member of Tyler County’s search and rescue team, instructed the members on recognizing the potential for severe thunderstorms, hail, heavy rains, flooding, and tornadoes, by watching the weather map and understanding the various color codes used as warning signs. They were also trained in the technology and storm spotting by use of Doppler Radar.
Tom Cooper, director of the Tyler County Office of Emergency Management, said, “It is important for the search and rescue members to fully understand weather maps and Doppler Radar along with recognizing the difference in severe thunderstorms and tornadoes.” He said, “High winds, lightning, and heavy rains can pose significant danger when on any kind of mission that involves search and rescue.”
Cooper, thanked Ruthford for her presentation and he told all the members that there could be follow up training with the NWS. He said all they have to do is let them know when and where and they will come.
Cooper also thanked the Jacksonburg Volunteer Fire Department for the use of their facilities and Wheeling Jesuit University for the use of the Lantz Farm for the search and rescue mission. He said without their kindness and generosity, training exercises like today’s would not be possible.
The Lantz Farm is 555 acres and is owned by Wheeling Jesuit University. A generous gift from the Lantz family descendants, the property is managed in cooperation with the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources (DNR) Wildlife Resources Section.
Five K-9 search and rescue dog handlers from four different counties were on hand to participate in the afternoon exercise. Wanda Yeater, from Wood County, brought her two Black Labs, Cricket and Maya; Tracy White, from Marshall County, brought her two German Shepherds, Diesel and Quarissa; Kelly Marshall, of Taylor County, brought her Blood Hound, Daisey; Lisa Altman, also of Taylor County, brought her Golden Retriever, Grace; and Angie McCue, of Wirt County, brought her Blood Hound, Mercy. All the handlers are also Tyler County members.
Each handler joined forces with other search and rescue members to form teams. With five teams in place, the simulated mission was to search the designated areas of the Lantz Farm and locate a missing person presumed to be deceased. Each team, equipped with GPS, radios, and all the standard first-aid equipment, set out on foot to locate search veteran Don Collins, who volunteered to get in position in the woods and wait on the rescuers. After about an hour-and-a-half of searching, a team member sent out the message that the victim had been safely located. Taking part in the exercise were 27 members of the Tyler County Team, including Ryan Thomas, a network engineer, who provided technical support. Dave Byers and Don Williams, search and rescue managers, were also on scene to coordinate the event.
“These kind of exercises are necessary not only for the members to stay sharp, but for the dogs and their handlers as well,” Cooper said. “We have about 150 members in our Tyler County team. Many of them come from all over the country.” We are constantly looking to add to our search and rescue team and invite anyone interested to contact us.”
Cooper can be reached by contacting his office in Middlebourne at 304-758-5155.