Helicopter Search and Rescue Exercises prepare Texas responders.

two helicopters flying over a train and Disaster City sign

COLLEGE STATION, TEXAS – From June 14 to 16 this year, Texas A&M Task Force 1 (TX-TF1) partnered with the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Texas Military Department to host a large-scale helicopter Search and Rescue exercise. More than 18 state and federal agencies from around Texas and the United States traveled to Bryan/College Station to participate in this year’s exercise that simulated a large-area flooding event.

This type of training prepares Texas responders for future hurricanes, flooding or other large-scale disasters. During the three-day exercise, 16 aircraft rescued more than 100 volunteers throughout the Brazos Valley at Easterwood Airport, Lake Bryan, Lake Somerville and the Brazos River.

The primary objective was for Helicopter Search and Rescue Teams (HSART) to develop their skills and learn to coordinate with different agencies in the air and on the ground. “Communications is always a challenge in a major disaster because every agency comes into the event with different capabilities, equipment, frequencies, etc.  Working with each other before the disaster strikes allows us to develop very simple pre-planned communications strategies that can quickly and safely get us engaged in search and rescue operations as an incident evolves,” said Brett Dixon, Project Manager, TX-TF1, HSART.

TX-TF1 Operations Chief Chuck Jones said this was the largest Search and Rescue exercise of this kind to date. He adds, “We try to have the exercise mimic real situations. Not every unit around the US has the same opportunity to do that. We also want to get to know these other partners so that during a large-scale disaster, when groups are sent to Texas to assist, they understand how we operate and vice versa. Any time we can train with other agencies, it better prepares us to aid the citizens of Texas.”

About Texas A&M Task Force 1

TX-TF1 is sponsored by the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service (TEEX) and has been deployed over 150 times since 1997. The team can be activated by the Texas Division of Emergency Management or as one of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s 28 sanctioned Urban Search and Rescue teams.

For more information about Texas A&M Task Force 1, visit www.texastaskforce1.org/ or follow Texas A&M Task Force 1 on Facebook www.facebook.com/txtf1 or Twitter @txtf1.

Merribeth Kahlich
[email protected]