Behind-the-scenes tour of Operation Vigilant Guard

Behind-the-scenes tour of Operation Vigilant Guard
Source: Stephanie Robusto
Source: Stephanie Robusto

GEORGETOWN COUNTY, SC (WMBF) – Amid the thousands of National Guard members, staff from local media outlets had the chance to go behind the scenes to witness their work during Operation Vigilant Guard.

It is a large-scale emergency response and disaster preparedness training event with agencies from the local, state, and national level. For many participants, this will be the first time they had the chance to work side-by-side with certain organizations.

That teamwork is key during an emergency.

The event kicked off with a tour of Carolinas Med-1, a mobile hospital for disasters and hospital outages. It is essentially a pop-up hospital, which can be ready to treat patients within 45 minutes of getting on scene.

In Monday's exercise, actors portrayed victims with various injuries. Some were yelling in pain, while others were unable to verbalize their issues to health care workers on scene. For an outsider, it seemed realistic in its organized chaos.

Nurses and doctors ushered victims in, determining level of care needed.

"Patients are first brought in this area to determine if they have life threatening or minor injuries. We are able to provide different levels of care, including surgeries," explained Wendy Hinson with Carolinas Med-1.

The majority of the patients, or actors, were coming from the Choppee Recreation Complex. Organizers explained that area was used to symbolize a shelter which collapsed following a hurricane.

Jackie Broach with the County of Georgetown explained the county planned to demolish the building at a later date. For Monday, the destroyed building served as the backdrop for a mass casualty exercise.

While emergency responders would perform a search and rescue mission, the Army Corps of Engineers first has to assess the structure to determine if it is safe enough for emergency personnel to enter.

"We offer assistant with infrastructure assessment," explained Annie McCartney with the Army Corps of Engineers. She added, "we are here to determine if the site is safe for people to get in there to walk around."

The final scenario involved S.C. HART, the South Carolina Helicopter Aquatic Rescue Team. A UH-60 Blackhawk hovered over the water while a National Guard member propelled down to rescue another person.

"It simulates someone being in a boat that may have been stranded or got swept out with the storm surge," explained Sam Hodge with Georgetown County Emergency Management.

The water presents an array of obstacles in coastal regions, such as Georgetown and Horry Counties. In addition to the specialized team practicing aquatic rescues, the drill also practiced a ferrying system.

"If we do lose bridges here, we basically lose Highway 17, and we wouldn't be able to transport resources or emergency crews," said Hodge.

Hodge explained that by using a variety of apparatus, crews can deploy the equipment out onto the water that, put together, make a floating bridge.

There will still be military activity in the area throughout Tuesday, with the drill wrapping up mid-week.?

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