Federal, state, local agencies to hold ice rescue exercise in Lake Erie

Great Lakes Coast Guard News
CLEVELAND — Personnel from the U.S. Coast Guard, the state of Ohio, the Ohio National Guard, Ottawa County, Danbury Township, the cities of Lakeside, Marblehead and Sandusky, and more than two dozen other partner agencies are scheduled to hold a mass-rescue full-scale exercise on the ice of Lake Erie in Marblehead on Saturday.

The scenario of the exercise, called “Icy Resolve 2013,” involves the simulated crash landing of a commuter plane with 50 passengers aboard on ice-covered Lake Erie. The exercise is designed to test coordinated federal/state/local emergency response.

The exercise will employ numerous airboats, helicopters and shore-based rescue crews. Crews aboard similar rescue assets responded during a real mass-rescue operation, as emergency responders rescued 134 people trapped on an ice floe adrift in Lake Erie in early February 2009:

The exercise provides the participating federal, state, local and volunteer agencies the opportunity to evaluate their response plans, capabilities and coordination to a mass-rescue operation in a cold-weather maritime environment. It will also test the agencies’ ability to execute critical incident communications, emergency medical care and triage, and many other elements of mass rescue procedures.

Icy Resolve 2013 logo designed by members of the exercise planning team

Icy Resolve 2013 logo designed by members of the exercise planning team

Local residents should not be alarmed about an increased presence or activity of law enforcement and emergency first responders who are participating in the exercise. All radio and telephone communications pertaining to exercise operations will be preceded with the phrase “This is an exercise.” In the case of a real-world emergency, crews are prepared to abandon the exercise, as necessary, to address the emergency. All communications pertaining to actual emergencies will be preceded by the phrase “This is a real-world emergency.”

“It is imperative that we continue to work with our federal, state and local partners to strengthen our response capabilities,” said Capt. Andrew Sugimoto, chief of the 9th Coast Guard District Incident Management Branch and the exercise director. “That’s the only way we can synchronize our policies, procedures and tactics to deliver the level of service our Great Lakes citizens and visitors deserve.”

“Exercises like this are critical to effective emergency preparedness,” said Fred Petersen, director of the Ottawa County Emergency Management Agency. “It gives us the opportunity to test our response plans and ensure that our integrated planning and training efforts would result in an effective and efficient response to a real event like this.”

Following the exercise, the participants will supply feedback and lessons learned, which will be incorporated with the observations of exercise evaluators to identify areas for improvement.

Agencies/companies expected to participate include: 9th Coast Guard District; Coast Guard Sector Detroit; Coast Guard Air Station Detroit; Coast Guard Station Marblehead; Coast Guard Auxiliary; U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Office of Air and Marine and Office of Border Patrol; Federal Aviation Administration; Ohio National Guard; Ohio Emergency Management Agency; Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office; Ottawa County Emergency Management Agency; Ottawa County Community Emergency Response Team; Catawba Island Township Volunteer Fire Department; Danbury Township Police Department; Lakeside Volunteer Fire Department; Marblehead Fire Department and Police Department; Perkins Township Fire Department; Port Clinton Fire Department; ProMedica; Put-In-Bay Township Volunteer Fire Department; Windsor Fire & Rescue Services; Cleveland Metro Life Flight; Hospital Council of Northwest Ohio; Huron City Fire and EMS; Mercy St. Vincent’s Life Flight; North Central EMS; Margaretta Township Fire Department; Sandusky Fire Department; Firelands Regional Medical Center; Magruder Memorial Hospital; Rescue Marine; and the American Red Cross and other volunteer groups. Representatives from the Canadian Coast Guard will be on hand to observe the exercise as well.

Federal, state and local agencies conducted a similar exercise, involving a simulated passenger plane crash on an ice-covered Green Bay in South Luxemburg, Wis., in January 2012.

Less than three weeks after that exercise, a group of ice fishermen stranded on an ice floe were rescued by a Brown County, Wis., Sheriff’s Department airboat crew.  A few weeks later, seven more people had to be rescued by local authorities after becoming stranded on an ice floe in nearby Riley’s Bay.

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