Drill tests GPS location abilities

Published 5:00 am Monday, June 1, 2009

Four Copiah County search teams combed the woods Saturdaymorning for missing 11-year-old boy scout Timmy Turtle, whowandered away from his tent in the pre-dawn hours at Warren HoodBoy Scout Reservation.

At least that was the scenario for the countywide drill, whichwas aimed at working with county agencies on incident commandtactics and how to utilize a GPS system in a life-savingsituation.

“The training today is hopefully to show the need to be trainedand ready to accurately interpret a GPS reading,” Copiah CountyCivil Defense Director Randle Drane said. “Part of the missiontoday is to find any weaknesses we might have on that.”

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Copiah County Sheriff’s Department Chief Deputy Tony Hemphillwas incident commander for the exercise, which involved thesheriff’s department, Copiah County Civil Defense, Hardy WilsonMemorial Hospital, Mississippi Emergency Management Agency,Mississippi Department of Wildlife Game and Fisheries, the RedCross, as well as all the county’s volunteer fire departments.

The Andrew Jackson Council Order of the Arrow Boy Scouts from 22counties got to participate in the exercise too. Scout leader LarryCagle said it was a good opportunity for them to hone the skillsthey work on as well.

“This is good preparation for us to show us how to prepare tointegrate into the operations if there’s a problem out here,” hesaid. “These are skill sets that we teach, such as first aid andemergency preparation, and in a situation like this we get to putthem to use.”

The four search groups were made up of volunteers and BoyScouts, and the campground was divided into four grids.

Each group was given a point they had to find with the GPS, andthey had to bring back a marker that was left there. During thecourse of the search, different challenges presentedthemselves.

One team found themselves directed to deal with a searcher’sbroken leg. Another group stumbled upon a hazardous materials site.And back at Incident Command, Hemphill was approached unexpectedlyby the “family” of the missing child.

It’s all just a way of putting together the training that all ofthe county’s emergency services go through when there isn’t apressing emergency situation, Hemphill said.

“It’s sporadic that we do an exercise this large, but there’salways planning behind the scenes as far as getting the correctequipment and getting certified in things like ICS,” Hemphill said.”I think it’s gone really well today and everyone’s done their partfor their searches.”

And it’s also been a good chance for the agencies to feel eachother out, Hemphill said.

“We’ve got a good bit of participation from all the differentagencies, and it helps to be familiar with how all the differentfolks react under these kind of circumstances,” he said.

Drane said the county is required to have an emergency drilleach year.

“I feel that it has not only gone well but has exceeded myexpectations as far as all the different agencies interacting,” hesaid. “Especially the Boy Scouts. This is a little out of theirconcept, but they do a lot of the same things we do. We’reespecially grateful they let us use their reservation, because thiswouldn’t have been possible without them.”