By DWR Conservation Police
Photos by Meghan Marchetti/DWR
On May 16, the Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR) Conservation Police conducted a Mock Training Exercise at Smith Mountain Lake (SML), named Operation Hydro Summit. This multi-agency exercise included local law enforcement agencies and emergency personnel from Bedford County, Franklin County, and the Smith Mountain Lake Marine Volunteer Fire Department. This exercise of a simulated boating accident was a highly complex scenario with lots of moving parts.
From the time the Incident Command Center was established, participates were actively engaged. In the initial response, (Phase 1) SML Fire and Rescue vessels respond to the area of a reported boat accident with someone in the water. This quickly transitions to a Boat Accident Investigation (Phase 2) when they discover the boat, with no occupants, and DWR officers respond to begin their investigation. Shortly thereafter, the Region 2 Man Tracking Team and a DWR K9 team respond (Phase 3) to search for a subject who left the now abandoned boat.
The goal of the exercise was to help prepare Conservation Officers and Emergency Response personnel for real-life scenarios. This also serves to demonstrate DWR’s commitment to being an inclusive team player with all of its partner organizations. What began as a boating accident investigation, soon led to tracking through mountainous areas, and finally culminated with recovery of a mannequin simulating a body by divers from the bottom of the lake.
The exercise finished with the Tracking team locating the the volunteer playing the role of the missing boat occupant and the SML Dive Team locating the mannequin representing the deceased boat operator. At the conclusion of the event, and After-Action Review was conducted that created a positive learning environment.