Ottawa County teams practice search & rescue

Ottawa County

ALLENDALE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — About 40 Ottawa County emergency responders participated in a special training exercise aimed at honing their search and rescue skills.

The training took place Monday at the KOA Campground in Allendale Township.

“We test our plan and we actually put that to use with our resources that we have available,” Ottawa County Emergency Manager Nick Bonstell told 24 Hour News 8 at the training site. “It’s definitely not as simple as going out in the woods and looking for somebody.”

The training scenario was a search for a missing 60-year-old man with dementia. It’s the type of situation that has an increased likelihood of happening in Ottawa County as visitors are drawn to the lakeshore county during the summer months.

“It’s not someone who’s going to call out and say, ‘Hey, I’m lost’,” Bonstell said. “You’re actually going to have to track and find that patient.”

Firefighters deployed drone technology as part of the training. The remote-controlled aircraft is equipped with a high-powered zoom camera and heat sensing technology. It allows searchers to quickly get a bird’s-eye view of the area.

“For us, it’s an increased capability,” Bonstell said.

The technology doesn’t replace the men and women needed to work the search from the ground.

“The drone is maybe going to help us find, but the drone can’t go in there and extract the person and provide EMS care,” Bonstell said.

The drone was used in a February search to help find a 15-year-old girl trapped on the ice on Lake Michigan about 1,000 feet from shore.

Bonstell says he hopes the training helps familiarize crews with working together so they can do so smoothly in the event of an emergency.

“Everything that we do, we train to the fullest extent so somebody doesn’t lose their life,” Bonstell said. “That’s what we’re trying to mitigate.”

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