First responders practice water drill

Ed Johnson, chief of Carroll Manor Volunteer Fire Co., left, scans the dark waters of the Potomac River as volunteer firefighter Susan Trost scans the shoreline from Airboat 28 during the Frederick County Swift Water/Floodwater Task Force Extended Search Drill launched Saturday near Point of Rocks.

POINT OF ROCKS -- It's midafternoon, and a nor'easter has been drenching the county in rain, causing flash flooding.

Someone calls 911 to inform authorities that they cannot get in touch with several family members who have been camping along the Potomac River near Brunswick.

When first responders arrive at the campsite, they find out a flash flood swept an unknown number of people away.

This is the scenario that launched at least six boats, several K-9 units, and multiple first responders to the Point of Rocks area Saturday evening.

They gathered at the Carroll Manor Volunteer Fire Co. substation for the third annual Frederick County Swift/Floodwater Task Force Extended Search Drill.

Participants included members of the Frederick County Advanced Technical Rescue team, the Department of Natural Resources, Thurmont K-9 Search and Rescue, American Red Cross, Frederick County Sheriff's Office, and local fire and rescue companies including Carroll Manor, Junior and Brunswick.

The search area was between Lander and Nolands roads and included several islands in the river that needed to be search.

"All we know is multiple victims," said Peter Gorelick, a member of the ATR team, during a briefing session.

The idea for the drill came from a real flash flood almost three and a half years ago that took the lives of five people in Keymar and Myersville, he said. The drill is an opportunity for the responders to get to know each other and realize their strengths and weaknesses.

Junior company member Scott Martin was the incident commander.

"We don't make these easy," he said. "I've purposely been left out of the (drill planning) loop."

As he pointed to a map of the southwestern portion of the county, Martin said, "This is not my backyard. I don't have all the answers."

He told the crowded room of about 40 participants he would rely on the responders in the field to relay information to him regarding the campers who had been swept away.

There were two objectives Martin was looking for each participant to achieve from the drill.

He hoped that everyone would be able to take some knowledge away and have fun.

"Learn from each other," Martin said. "Learn from the drill."

Carroll Manor Chief Ed Johnson and firefighter Susan Trost got their company's boat in the water and helped search around the bridge columns along the state border.

As Johnson steered, Trost sat at the front of the boat pointing out debris in the water and rocks.

While multiple branches clung to the side of the columns, the two did not find the campers in their first search of the water.

The drill began around 6 p.m. and ended around 11 p.m. when the responders went over the search back at the substation.

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