The Coast Guard, Hawai`i County Fire Department, and Hawai`i Police Department conducted a successful joint Search and Rescue Exercise off Hilo on Tuesday and Wednesday.
The SAREX took place over two days with a meeting between agency leaders to discuss planning and review of each other’s capabilities Tuesday. On Wednesday, crews simulated a search for Oscar, a dummy float representing a person in the water.
“A lot of what we’re hoping to accomplish is interoperability with our local partners,” said Coast Guard Lt. Brock Blaisdell, the Sector Honolulu command center chief. “We learn about our communications, how to improve working together, and overall we get to put faces to names.”
The SAREX began after the crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Oliver Berry (WPC 1124) deployed Oscar about two miles off Hilo. After allowing time for Oscar to drift in the water, organizers simulated a call to HPD dispatchers who notified the Coast Guard and HFD of an overdue boater in the area who was possibly in the water.
The agencies set up a joint Incident Command Post and launched their assets. Taking part in the exercise were the crew of the Oliver Berry, an Air Station Barbers Point MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew, a HFD response boat crew, operators of a HFD Jet Ski, and dispatchers from HPD.
By working together effectively, responders were able to narrow down the search zone and set search patterns for the units quickly; resulting in HFD Jet Ski crew locating and recovering Oscar. The elapsed time between the call to dispatch and recovery of Oscar was 90 minutes.
“We’re both in the business of trying to rescue people, or save people, protect peoples lives,” said Battalion Chief Gerald Kosaki of HFD. “To participate in a search and rescue exercise would be very good if we have an actual emergency. We would know each other. We would know the faces. We could put the faces to the names and have a better-coordinated effort.”
The search and rescue exercises are held semi-annually and rotate between the Hawaiian Islands. Last year they were conducted on Maui and Kauai, while this year they are on the Big Island and Oahu.
Photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Matthew West. First responders from HFD pass Oscar, a float representing a person in the water, to crew members from the Coast Guard Cutter Oliver Berry (WPC 1124) off Hilo, Hawaii, Aug. 15, 2018.