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Lessons learned from Harvey focus of Austin search and rescue training

(PHOTO: CBS Austin).JPG

Lessons learned from Harvey was the focus as multiple agencies conducted search and rescue training in Austin.

Helicopters were flying around the Austin area throughout Wednesday afternoon as agencies conducted training missions for search and rescue.

“To improve communications during a search and rescue type of event,” National Guard Sgt. First Class Malcolm McClendon said.

So-called survivors were bussed out to multiple locations including Camp Mabry, Lake Pflugerville, Decker Lake and the Colorado River. Then helicopter crews would fly to their location, lower a cable and pick them up.

The survivors would be in trees, in the water, on top of cars, anything that mimicked real-life rescue missions during Hurricane Harvey.

“When there is a real disaster there isn’t just going to be one person to rescue, one scenario,” McClendon said.

Before the training, planners got together and talked about what went right and wrong during Hurricane Harvey. Then they’d implement certain situations into the training.

“This year we’re doing a simulation of kind of some lessons learned throughout hurricane Harvey when we responded near Houston,” Texas Task Force 1’s Adam Frey said.

Frey said the biggest thing was communication. They had issues with so many agencies working together.

“Who do we get in contact with,” Frey said. “Who do we link up with in order to kind of get good information on where the victims are at.”

Frey is a swimmer and goes down on the cable to rescue people. He said training scenarios like this are important to always stay ready.

“You’re not in bad weather when you’re out here training so it needs to be muscle memory, it needs to be second nature in order to get out there when it’s raining and you can’t here and there’s wind,” Frey said.

During Hurricane Harvey, the National Guard with Texas Task Force 1 made 349 air hoist rescues, 16,000 ground rescues and evacuated 18,000 people.

“We feel we’re prepared year round I mean we’re ready to respond and exercises like this help us get there,” McClendon said.

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