BIVFD participates in rescue training exercise

Thu, 11/21/2019 - 5:30pm

The Coast Guard helicopter hovered just off the edge of the bluffs, spraying dirt and sea mist into the air. A Guardsman inside the bird held tight onto a line, lifting a basket up off the beach and safely into the copter.

Under a sky full of dark, rain-heavy clouds, the helicopter then turned toward the lawn of the Southeast Lighthouse, touched down, and the Guardsman carried off the rescued individual and put him down near the fence, only to be sent back down to the bottom of the bluffs to be rescued all over again.

The individual was a dummy, but the members of the Block Island Volunteer Fire and Rescue Squad acted with an intensity and focus as though the rescue was real.

Lt. Paul Deane of the New Shoreham Police Department was on hand to watch the action. It was Deane, who is in charge of training exercises for the police department, who coordinated with the Coast Guard over the summer to set up the rescue training exercise. There had been some pre-training exercises at the Block Island Airport on Saturday, Nov. 16, in order to get to know the equipment and individuals that would be part of the actual training exercise on Tuesday, Nov. 19. The pre-training exercises at the airport provided “a quick briefing on the helicopter, and gave a detailed explanation on how to use the lines and rescue baskets. We formed three-man teams, and we raised and lowered the basket,” said Deane.

Deane, as well as flight mechanic Mark Spell and Lt. Cmdr. Robert McCabe of the Coast Guard, visited various locations on the island, and eventually they chose the bluffs because they wanted “something a little more challenging” to train on, Deane said. The site at the bluffs was approved by the Coast Guard.

The training, said Deane, was necessary. “If and when something goes bad, their people will be comfortable with us, and we’ll be comfortable with” the Coast Guard team, said Deane.

The one thing Deane wanted to specifically point out was the fact that everyone on the exercise was “volunteering to do the training and to make the public safer. The fact that they’re here to do some training with us is pretty spectacular. Our island is pretty lucky to have these people who care,” he said.