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Elk Knob State Park To Host Search-and-Rescue Training for 60 Responders, K-9 Units Across the Region

Nov. 12, 2014. Agencies from across the region will participate Nov. 15 in a search-and-rescue training exercise at Elk Knob State Park, the first of its kind held at this park.

The exercise will task about 60 responders, including several K-9 teams, with locating a missing person in rugged wilderness conditions. While the scenario is fictitious, a volunteer will actually be hiding inside the park for searchers to find.

Participants will be divided into search teams and leadership roles as though the search were legitimate. They will use whatever tools they have available, including GPS units, mapping software, VIPER radios and all-terrain vehicles, as well as consider what other local or state resources they might request in a true search.

The search will operate in two sessions: noon to 6 p.m. and 6 p.m. to midnight.

The exercise is intended to foster cooperation among organizations and develop the skills necessary to respond efficiently to crises. Trained evaluators will provide feedback during and after the session.

“We’re not just playing in one sandbox,” said Kenneth Teague, emergency management coordinator for Caldwell County and planner of the exercise. “This is intended to get us to all work together.”

Agencies participating include:

— Elk Knob State Park, Grandfather Mountain State Park, New River State Park, National Park Service/Blue Ridge Parkway, U.S. Forest Service;

— Watauga County Emergency Management, Ashe County Emergency Management, Caldwell County Emergency Management, Caldwell Emergency Response Team

— Watauga County Sheriff’s Office, Meat Camp Volunteer Fire Department, Linville-Central Rescue Squad, Watauga Rescue Squad and the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation.

Medical teams will be on site in case of injury.

The training builds on a similar planning exercise held in July 2013 that did not involve a field search. This will be the first field training exercise held at Elk Knob since it became a state park in 2007.

The park will remain open to the public during the training exercise. Elk Knob State Park is open from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. and is located at 5564 Meat Camp Road in Todd.

Elk Knob State Park is a part of the N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation and the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources. Its mission is to conserve and protect representative examples of natural beauty, ecological features and recreational resources of statewide significance; to provide outdoor recreational opportunities in a safe and healthy environment; and to provide environmental education opportunities that promote stewardship of the state’s natural heritage.

For more information, please contact Elk Knob State Park Superintendent Tracy Minton at (828) 297-7261 or tracy.minton@ncparks.gov.