Emergency rescue officials invade town

Emergency workers will simulate airline disaster Sunday

Posted: Sunday, March 12, 2000

Men and women in blue and camouflage will flood into Juneau March 17 through 19, but residents needn't be alarmed.

More than 100 Search and Rescue (SAR) personnel from Alaska and Canada will convene here for an annual statewide conference starting at 7:30 a.m. Friday. The 17th U.S. Coast Guard District will host the conference, headquartered at Centennial Hall. Hosted on a rotating basis among the Alaska State Troopers, the 11th Air Force and the Coast Guard, the SAR conference provides an opportunity for those who attend to train together, share lessons learned and participate in tabletop and field exercises.

``The emphasis is on training for this year's conference,'' said Cmdr. Rick Stanchi, chief of the Coast Guard's District Office of Search and Rescue.

``All of our participants have limited time and many commitments. Our objective is to sharpen their search and rescue skills,'' Stanchi said.

Guest speakers will lecture on the psychology of lost persons, interacting with families of victims, critical incident stress management and media relations during a crisis. Classes will be provided on search planning, risk assessment and field survival. Practical field exercises for mountain rescue teams and search dog groups will also be held.

Bruce Bowler of SEADOGS will lead the search dog field sessions, while Steve Lewis will take mountain rescue personnel out. Search dogs and handlers are coming from all over the state, including Anchorage, Fairbanks and Kodiak, said Lt. Mike Patterson of the Coast Guard.

``None of these folks have ever worked together before,'' Patterson said, ``so we are using Saturday for them to get together and talk tactics. Then, if we ever have a mass casualty in the state somewhere, the first time these guys work together on an emergency will not be the first time they have ever talked.''

Patterson expects attendees will share insights about how they work as teams, and what equipment and methods work best for them in crisis situations.

The conference will culminate on Sunday, March 19, with a field exercise simulating a commercial airline crash in a remote Juneau location. Patterson did not reveal the site of the simulation in advance, because he didn't want scouting going on ahead of time.

Speakers at the conference include Lt. Gov. Fran Ulmer, Lt. Gen. Thomas R. Case, Commander of the U.S. Air Force Command; 17th Coast Guard District Commander Rear Adm. Thomas J. Barrett; and Brig. Gen. Phil Oates of the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs.

Local Juneau agencies and groups assisting in the conference include Capital City Fire and Rescue, the Juneau Police Department, Bartlett Regional Hospital, the Alaska Army National Guard and the Federal Aviation Administration.

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