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Search, rescue exercises prepare for emergencies
Training pic
Captain Commander Ross Statham, left, of the Gainesville Composite Squadron Civil Air Patrol, instructed area cadets as well as patrol staff from Dawson, Forsyth, Hall and Lumpkin counties in preparation for a search and rescue exercise Saturday. - photo by Chelsea Thomas Dawson Community News

Dawson County Emergency Services personnel and members of the Georgia Wing Civil Air Patrol conducted a search and rescue exercise Saturday in the Dawson Forest Wildlife Management Area.

The search exercise involved an adult missing from their camping area for more than 24 hours in Dawson Forest. Ground and air patrol were tasked to find the person.

"Our main goal is to be able to establish communication between our ground and our air people," said Billy Thurmond, Dawson County Emergency Services director. "If we had a real lost person we would set up a command post to run the operation out of. Civil Air Patrol would have their planes up looking for people."

In the exercise, the supposed missing adult was said to be suffering minor injuries due to storms passing through the area.

In response, Dawson County emergency personnel asked for assistance from the air patrol in locating the person.

The ground team, made up of young cadets, was led by a qualified ground patrol leader and air surveillance crew.

"Once [air patrol] has located the person they lead the ground troops to them. Then the medical crew to get them looked at," Thurmond said.

The simulated victim was located from the air about two hours into the exercise. Air crews then directed the ground crews to the victims' location.

Upon the successful completion of situation one, air patrol crews flew numerous aerial photo missions over the North Georgia Premium Outlets. The exercise was in the event of a natural disaster, like the tornado's that hit northwest Georgia last April.

Air patrol officials used GPS enabled high resolution cameras that are capable of transmitting real time photos to the local EMS or the Office of the Governor within minutes of landing. These include exact latitude and longitude, as well as altitude encoded on each photo, according to officials.