‘One team, one fight’: Search-and-rescue training conducted in the Porkies

Search-and-rescue training conducted in the Porkies

Photo provided by Superior Search and Rescue Around 110 people participated in search and rescue training at the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park Saturday and Sunday.

PORCUPINE MOUNTAINS WILDERNESS STATE PARK — More than 100 people from agencies across the Midwest converged in Ontonagon County for a large-scale training exercise Saturday and Sunday.

The training took place at the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, where rescuers found Nante Niemi alive and well after a three-day search last year.

With larger incidents occurring every year, Superior Search and Rescue reached out to Park Superintendent Michael Knack to organize a large-scale exercise.

Superior Search and Rescue President Darian Reed said the approach for the weekend’s exercise was “one team, one fight.”

“The main goal we want to try to get out there was to get all of us to work together, to be one team wherever there’s an incident,” he said. “My belief is whenever there’s a major incident, we need to call everyone and get them involved. The more we work together, the more we’re better able to search.”

The main host was the state Department of Natural Resources, including representatives from the law enforcement division and several other parks across the U.P. Other main groups involved in planning were the Michigan State Police, U.S. Coast Guard and Ontonagon County Sheriff’s Office.

Around 30 agencies were involved in all, encompassing the Upper Peninsula and parts of Wisconsin.

In the weekend’s scenario, several Boy Scouts had gone missing when a storm came through during a kayaking expedition. Some of the victims had been unable to get back to shore and got lost on the shoreline, prompting the search.

The Scouts were played by members of Boy Scouts Troop 207 in Houghton on Saturday. The next day, they followed the searchers to learn more about rescue operations.

The event had been a success, Reed said. Had it been an actual search, it would have ended relatively quickly when a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter spotted the Scouts on one of its first passes.

“They did record that information, but we held that back just to keep the scenario going,” Reed said. That let them test out more methods, like K-9 units or a high-angle rescue scenario at Lake of the Clouds.

Reed said team members had worked well together, with communication between the command team and searchers. Having disparate agencies work together also led to all them expanding their skills.

“We had conservation officers sharing information with state troopers, sharing tips, tricks, training techniques,” he said. “We had search-and-rescue members doing the same thing with conservation officers. We were all working together with one team.”

The next steps will be getting feedback and evaluating what went well and what needs to be improved.

This was the first large-scale training they’ve done in the Porkies. Reed hopes it make it an annual event.

“The amount of success we saw, the amount of camaraderie was fantastic to see, and it was such a great outcome for this that we are feeling more and more prepared for next year,” he said. “This is a part of the process of helping us to get better, learn where everybody works well. This has been a great success for everybody.”


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