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Inner Harbor Training Exercises Help First Responders Prepare For Disaster

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Derek Valcourt 370x278 Derek Valcourt
Derek Valcourt began working at WJZ in September 2002. His first major...
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BALTIMORE (WJZ)— Dozens of first responders and rescue boats converged on the Inner Harbor Wednesday morning in a first-of-its-kind training exercise. The drill was designed to prepare rescue crews on how to respond to not just a small boating accident, but a major catastrophe.

Derek Valcourt has the latest on the lessons the crews are hoping to learn.

Believe it or not, a training exercise this big had never been done before, despite the fact that just 10 years ago rescuers were dealing with a real life crisis.

It was March of 2004 when a covered seaport taxi in the Inner Harbor encountered a sudden storm that flipped the Pontoon boat upside down, which killed five of the 25 people on board. Rescue crews snapped photos of the survivors climbing onto the wreckage while waiting for help. The resulting search for the victims bodies in the murky waters of the harbor lasted days, which taught first responders some important lessons.

That’s why Wednesday morning, at the request of Baltimore’s popular water taxi service, dozens of first responders tested how they would react if something similar happened now.

Rather than practice on real-life people posing as victims, life vests were tossed in the water to simulate victims and rescue boats were sent to make the save.

For the trainees, the exercise is also about making sure that the local first responders coordinate well with their state and federal partners.

That’s why the U.S. Coast Guard and DNR Police joined with city police.

“There needs to be a lot of communication about where they are taking the victims, how they conduct the rescue, who’s involved with the rescue,” said C.P. Hsia, Mayor’s Office of Emergency Management.

Officials say they will take what they learned during the drill and tweak their response procedures accordingly in the future.

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