ShareThis Page
News

Rescue drill to feature copters

Joe Napsha
| Tuesday, April 24, 2012, 4:35 p.m.

Blackhawk rescue helicopters will be circling Arnold Palmer Regional Airport in Unity on Saturday morning as part of a drill to train swift-water rescue teams from the region.

The Helicopter and Aquatic Rescue Team swift-water rescue drill that is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. is critical for rescue teams to grow proficient in working with helicopters in emergency situations, said Dan Stevens, spokesman for the Westmoreland County Department of Public Safety.

"In a real-world emergency, you don't want to be learning (about helicopter rescues) at that time," Stevens said.

It is important for rescuers to know how to work safely with helicopters, he said.

"You don't want to become one of the people who needs to be rescued," Stevens noted.

Among those teams participating in the drill at an unused section of the airport runway will be the Greensburg Volunteer Fire Department's 10-member Helicopter and Aquatic Rescue Team, known as HEART.

Working with Blackhawk helicopters "brings everything to life as far as the rescue goes," said George McFarland, captain of the Greensburg fire department's dive team and a member of its aquatic rescue team.

The members have been training for more than four years, working with the Pennsylvania National Guard on water rescue and emergency response.

Saturday's exercises will be especially beneficial because the Blackhawk helicopter must hover closer to the ground than other helicopters during rescue attempts, thus creating a more powerful rotor wash, or downward draft of air, said George McBriar, chief of the Blawnox Volunteer Fire Company and coordinator of Allegheny County's Swift Water and Flood Response Team.

The Blawnox swift-water rescue team will participate in the drill, as well as a swift-water rescue team comprised of members from several Allegheny County fire departments, including Glassport, McKeesport, Tarentum and Crescent Township, McBriar said.

While the drill cannot simulate water rescue at the landlocked airport, McFarland said, water rescue drills have been conducted at Kinzu Dam in Warren County.

The two Blackhawk helicopters to be used in the drill are stationed at the Pennsylvania Air National Guard base at John Murtha Johnstown-Cambria County Airport near Johnstown, McFarland said.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me