After serving over 15 years in the U.S. Army and Florida National Guard, Charley Hogwood wanted to continue serving his community. That desire to serve eventually led him into first responder work and to Dawson County’s Community Emergency Response Team (CERT).
CERT programs are designed to teach the community to be self-sustaining in times of natural
disasters when emergency services cannot respond, said Public Affairs Officer Laura Fulcher.
While Dawson County doesn’t currently have a CERT team, Hogwood has more recently taught classes to prospective fire and EMS volunteers, though not during the pandemic.
Trainings have allowed participants to learn and develop the skills that can help them respond as citizens in the event of a natural disaster. These volunteers are not county employees.
Following his time in the military, Hogwood pursued a career in emergency management. Then, he and his family moved up to northeastern Georgia. Hogwood has served as a volunteer firefighter with Dawson County for four years. This past year, he became a staff firefighter/EMT for Lumpkin County.
When Hogwood started volunteering for search-and-rescue missions with CERT four years ago, his military training as a reconnaissance scout kicked in. He realized his skills like land navigation and tracking could prove especially useful.
Typically, calls for search help can come from within or outside of Dawson County, with agencies inside of a county handling efforts first.
“Every search is a bit different. You never know what it (the situation) is going to be,” Hogwood said.
He explained that searches can be to look for anyone ranging from a small child to a lost or injured hiker to older people. Sometimes, other counties may contact Dawson County for search assistance, and volunteers from within the fire and EMS system will be asked to come out and participate.
Sometimes, search plans can include dog teams to find or track someone, whether that person be lost, injured or a victim or perpetrator of some criminal act.
“We never know what [calls] we’re going to get and what time of day [it’ll be], so we have to be flexible,” Hogwood said.
He added that searches are also weather dependent, such as efforts along the Etowah River.
Dawson County’s Fire and Emergency Services has worked with Lumpkin County’s Swiftwater Rescue Team on water rescues.
“The response is more urgent if people aren't equipped for incoming weather or if they have children,” he added.
As someone who also runs his own wilderness rescue, Hogwood encourages people to take with them a day kit of anything they might need, such as a portable phone charger or ribbons to mark their way along trails.
Most cell phones have GPS capabilities, so they can be very helpful if emergency personnel are trying to find a lost person. Hogwood added that unless someone’s in danger, it’s important for them to stay in the same location they are when calling 911 so their location can be pinpointed.
Other important things to do when hiking outdoors is bring equipment and clothing for the terrain and weather and tell a friend when you expect to finish a hike, he said.
Hogwood elaborated that he’s proud of Dawson County Fire and Emergency Services for having a volunteer program. He’s glad for the chance to serve the community.
“It’s an amazing feeling…when you can have a successful mission and find people in good shape, and the family can thank you,” he said. “That’s where the rewards are.”