Thursday, February 18, 2010

Ice Rescue/Hoist Training

Interagency training is an ongoing and necessary event to keep our first responders current and skilled in difficult evolutions.

The United States Park Police and the Montgomery County Maryland Department of Fire and Rescue Services work very frequently with each other, at times, on a daily basis. Water rescues and ice rescues are an example of difficult missions that both agencies are tasked with.

United States Park Police Aviation spends many flight hours patrolling the Potomac River. Often our Aviation Section is involved in rescues of swimmers in trouble, boaters who have been separated from their craft, and climbers and hikers who are injured on cliffs along the Potomac River.

Montgomery County Department of Fire and Rescue Services has one of the most proficient teams of firefighters and medics to mitigate these incidents. The MCDFRS Swift Water teams have boats, ropes, swimmers, climbers, and medics who boldly plunge into dangerous waters to make many saves every year.

Often, the areas they work in are difficult to access for rescues and patient extrications. The best tool to finalize the rescue or locate victims is from the air. This is where the United States Park Police Aviation teams enter the rescue scenario.

Our helicopters are crewed by personnel who will fly into challenging areas such as in the Potomac Gorge where winds can be erratic and perform hoists of patients or insertions of swimmers. After the rescue, our Paramedics will treat and transport the patients.

It is critical that these teams work together BEFORE these difficult rescues are needed. The flight and ground crews must learn good communications skills with each other, make certain all radio frequencies will never fail, understand each others’ safety needs, concerns, and protocols, and even get to know each other to develop comfort and trust in the others’ skills.

February 17, 2010 turned out to be a great day to test these needs. The mission was ice rescue from frozen bodies of water combined with hoist techniques into the helicopter. The ground training at Montgomery County, Maryland Fire Station 14 was extensive. Since this training can be hazardous, much time was spent on skills including ropes, knots, patient/victim approaches, securing techniques for the patient, and advanced medical treatments for the hypothermic victim. While this is critical for “real” scenarios, it is also critical in training. Safety officers were identified, distress messages passed along, interagency communications systems tested, tethers implemented, and many repeated admonitions about the need for personal flotation devices. No trainee or trainer would approach the scene without the proper safety equipment…No exceptions!

After the ground training, all participants met at the side of United States Park Police helicopter Eagle 1 for a flight briefing. This included evacuation procedures, hoist safety, fire safety, and proper approaches.

Now, everyone was ready to go out on the ice.

After meeting at a local golf course with a pond, the trainers (properly secured for safety!) used a saw to cut a hole in the 6” thick ice.

The “victims” wore dry suits and flotation devices and they enjoyed an invigorating swim in a pond with a hole in the ice.

When Eagle 1 approached, the rescuers secured the victim and prepared the hoist. Up went the victim in the Billy Pugh rescue net!

All participants learned quite a bit about ice rescue and helicopter hoisting operations. This training advanced the ongoing interagency working of the United States Park Police and the Montgomery County Department of Fire and Rescue Services.

None of the victims who spent time in the ice hole turned down the hot coffee after they got off the aircraft!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Cabin Fever

The United States Park Police understands that many people are suffering severe "cabin fever" from spending so much time indoors during this blizzard.

Our friends with the Horse Mounted Patrol feel the same way.

A couple of our horses got out for a bit and kicked up their heels (hooves, maybe?) so that they could be ready to patrol!!

These horses live at the Edgewater Stables. The photographs are curtesy of Arvin Reynolds, farrier for our Horse Mounted Patrol.

The Big Dig

Now that the Blizzard of 2010 has abated, the United States Park Police is digging out.

We maintained our normal complement of patrols throughout these challanging times, securing Icons and Memorials, providing Parkway patrols, and all of our regular duties, but we ramped up the additional public safety work of checking for stranded visitors.

Many of our officers spent several days living at the various stations, sleeping on cots, and fueling their bodies with MREs.

Our dispatchers never let the radio system become compromised with many long hours.

Aviation was utilized in Loudoun County, Virginia when the county Sheriff's Office was concerned that there may be missing drivers mired in snow and unable to be located except from above.

SWAT and Motors continued to provide escorts for the various dignitaries they routinely protect.

We benefitted from the extra efforts of our partners within the National Park Service, most especially the roadway and tree crews who cleared many miles of roads, moved and cut hundreds of downed trees, and at times, plowed a path for our patrols to respond to the police calls in hard to reach areas.

We are very proud of all of our staff for an incredibly well done job under trying conditions!

These photographs are an overview of Washington, DC after "Round Two" of this blizzard on February 10, 2010. You will see National Park Service areas such as the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, the Iwo Jima Memorial, Arlington House, the Jefferson Memorial, the Frederick Douglas House, the United States Park Police District 5 Station and Anacostia Operations Facility, the Aviation unit hanger "Eagle's Nest", Great Falls, and also some general views of the Washington area including the National Cathedral, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and Reagan National Airport.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Unusual Snow Preparations

Bread. Check.

Milk. Check.

Shovel. Check.

Movie DVDs. Check.

It seems like you are completely prepared for a long wait in your home during the snow. That may be true, but for United States Park Police officers, we need to do many additional preparations. Our patrols must go on, but we have some peculiar needs that must be met.

Consider our horses assigned to the Mounted Patrol.

Our horses need feed, water, and daily care. This requires an additional commitment from the Mounted officers. These officers are deployed for regular patrol duties to supplement the “street” officers with the increased calls for service, but the horses will remain well cared for.

While everyone else is at home watching DVDs and eating bread and drinking their milk, United States Park Police officers make frequent checks of our stables to assure the integrity of the roofs, make certain power stays on so that a heat loss will not freeze up the waterers, and check the welfare of the animals.

The Mounted officers must muck the stalls, provide hay for twenty four hour grazing, and provide two well balanced meals of Dietrich pellet grain daily for our charges.

The stock piles of shavings we use for bedding generally is frozen up and not accessible through the drifts, so we switch to baled shavings that we can carry on our shoulders. Hay must be moved from the lofts and storage sheds to the stalls. Grain needs to be distributed about. Manure is toted a bit away from the stalls where it will be piled for later removal.

Some of our facilities require frequent plow trips so access can be maintained for this important care.

Prior to events such as the blizzard conditions we are now seeing, our Mounted officers made certain that all medical supplies were up to date with bandaging materials and any pharmaceuticals that could be needed in an emergency were readily available. We must assume that if a veterinarian is needed, it could take a while for a response.

While you are at home hopefully enjoying this snow please remember the many additional steps your public safety personnel is doing to maintain operations.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Historic Snowfall In Washington, DC

Historic snowfall in the Washington, DC area brought many challenges to public safety personnel. This snowfall began on Friday February 5, 2010 and continued until late Saturday February 6, 2010. Most of the roadways were at times completely impassable because the almost two feet of snow coupled with snow fall rates at times about 4 inches per hour almost overwhelmed the plowing equipment. This snow was also very moist and dense. The weight of the snow brought down hundreds of trees, obstructing many roadways and downing power lines.

The United States Park Police responded with a vast array of resources. Many of the areas we patrol in the Washington area have desolate sections that concern us during such weather conditions because hikers, visitors, and motorists could get stranded making it difficult to locate them. To assure that we keep our community safe, one of our important resources to patrol the deserted areas is aerial surveillance by United States Park Police Aviation.

Clearly these patrols were initially limited by the snowfall and poor visibility, but as soon as Aviation could fly, they made a detailed assessment of the storm’s impact. Some of the patrols were in the downtown Washington, DC area, a flight up the Potomac River to Great Falls, Fort Washington Park, the areas near Mount Vernon, East Potomac Park and Haines Point, and the Potomac River itself. The river patrols allow us to look for anybody who may have become stranded in or near the river and also to assess navigation hazards for the boaters using the Potomac River.

United States Park Police Rescue Technician/Paramedic Sergeant Klebaner (Aviation Section) photographed some of the patrol areas when United States Park Police Helicopter Eagle 1 made these flights on Sunday February 7, 2010.

Please enjoy these photographs as you grasp the impact of this blizzard. Some of the scenes you will see are the Potomac River Gorge and Great Falls, Georgetown in Washington, DC, Washington’s Reagan National Airport, the Jefferson Memorial, Arlington Cemetery, Mount Vernon, the Lincoln Memorial, the World War II Memorial, the Korean War Memorial, the approach to the United States Park Police Aviation hanger in Anacostia Park, United States Park Police Eagle 1 at the hanger, and a beautiful red fox running across the snow on Haines Point.

All of these photographs have the unique vantage point of the United States Park Police Aviation personnel.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Closing of Memorials

The Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, and Jefferson Memorials are all closed to visitation. This decision was made to assure public safety.

It is a better use of National Park Service assets to have personnel clearing roadways and mitigating severe storm impact such as downed trees.