Coast Guard, Hawaii County to hold Search and Rescue exercise off Hilo

Coast Guard Cutter Oliver Berry file photo by Lt. j.g. Peter Driscoll)

Coast Guard Cutter Oliver Berry file photo by Lt. j.g. Peter Driscoll

HONOLULU — The Coast Guard, Hawaii County Fire Department, Hawaii County Police Department and Ocean Safety and Lifeguard Services are scheduled to conduct a search and rescue exercise in the vicinity of Hilo Tuesday and Wednesday.

”The purpose is to continue building and improving operational cohesion between other agencies and us,” said Ensign Seth Gross, a Coast Guard Sector Honolulu search and rescue coordinator. “We wish to improve our response, readiness, and communication continuously. We hold these exercises semi-annually, and they revolve throughout the islands. Last year was on Maui and Kauai and this year will be on the Big Island and Oahu.”

Day one of the exercise, members from Coast Guard Sector Honolulu will meet with Hawaii County officials to discuss safety, communication and demonstrate assets to understand each other’s capabilities. The following day a multi-agency search and rescue exercise will be conducted for a simulated lost person in the water. The Coast Guard will issue a Broadcast Notice to Mariners regarding the activity at 7 a.m. Wednesday and run it for the duration of operations.

The exercise will take place on the water and in the air off Hilo with Coast Guard and local agencies working together to test and evaluate interagency communications, response plans, and responders’ actions during a simulated exercise of a missing mariner. Operations will run from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Access may be limited to the public boat ramp in Hilo Bay where the Incident Command Post is stood up during this time. During the search and rescue exercise, multiple agencies’ assets will be launched, including the use of an Oscar dummy in the water. Oscar is weighted and used to simulate a person in the water. The public is asked not to disturb Oscar if found.

Assets are expected to include: the Coast Guard Cutter Oliver Berry (WPC 1124), an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew from Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point, Hawaii County Fire helicopter and boat crews, dispatchers from Hawaii County and personnel from the Hawaii County Police Department, and a Jet Ski crew from Ocean Safety.

The SAREX is being conducted to evaluate notification and response procedures between first responders and to identify shortfalls in communication and coordination of response during SAR incidents. Each agency holds individual capabilities that complement each other’s efforts and bolsters the overall success of the SAR system.

Although people are requested to stay clear of any boating area involved in the exercise, designated by the presence of Oscar, boats and other assets, the general public should remain vigilant and call 911 to report any possible distress situations.

Coast Guard duty personnel will not be affected by the exercise, and will be available to respond to any ongoing and emergency search and rescue cases.

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