The most amazing thing happened Thursday. Clinton County Emergency Services along with the Sheriff’s Department and Communications provided a Search and Rescue Training for other first responders and the Community Emergency Response Team volunteers. We unexpectedly had a real-life chance to see what a search and rescue operation feels and looks like.
We had just come in from the first training exercise when a call came in to Emergency Services and the deputies that, of all things, there was a real search and rescue emergency. Two little boys, ages 4 and 2, had gone missing out in a rural area, just minutes after they had gone out to play. When she couldn’t find them just a few minutes later, their mom called 911 and the closest responders had arrived almost immediately and searched the house, pool and areas nearby. Meanwhile all other emergency services had been notified, and it was decided they would use the Command Center already set up at Eagle Point Lodge for the search and rescue training. Deputies involved with the training had already left for the scene, and other first responders began arriving and were dispatched. Bill and Lois Hall were at the training with their search and rescue dogs so they were sent out.
Last, after instructions were given, some of us CERT volunteers were sent out to join the search while others stayed to help with Command Center needs.
In between all this activity, the Sheriff’s Department was calmly and quickly as possible arranging for more help, including an equestrian search and rescue team and helicopters with heat-sensing equipment. A perimeter had been set up to monitor traffic in and out of the area. They had already checked whether there were any registered sex offenders in the area.
When we arrived at the home, we saw that the surrounding area was even rougher than it looked on the GIS system. It was surrounded by cornfields, trees and timber, and fields covered in tall grass, weeds and brush. We were sent to search the rough area, there were already search teams in the cornfields, and the dogs were working. We went through brush and weeds as tall as we were, over very rough ground and thick undergrowth. We came upon an abandoned old farmstead, found nothing there. We’d been out only about a half hour when the call came that the boys had been found. Thank God! It was a cold mid-afternoon and only a few hours til dark. Fortunately the little boys were dressed warm.
When we got back, the little guys were there, all scratched up from their walk and asking “Why are all these people here? What are they doing?” Like a miracle, their daddy was with the group that found them. They had decided to go look at a tree platform in a food plot for deer that they’d seen before with Dad, but being little boys, forgot to tell Mom. They were a half mile from home through that dense area.
We also learned that these incidents are not unusual, and this may not make the news because it had a happy ending and lasted only a few hours. We learned that relatively often there are children and Alzheimer’s patients who wander away and must be searched for. If it is not in the news we don’t know about it, and I want residents of Clinton County and the towns within to know just how blessed we are to have these genuinely caring trained professionals and volunteers to call upon when there is an emergency. The next time you see a sheriff’s deputy, a police officer or fireman, an emergency services worker of any kind, thank them for all they do. These devastating events can happen to anyone.
Last, I will share this with you. The hardest moments for me personally were just before we walked into that field, not knowing what we might find. All I wanted to do was cry, but there was no time for that. The minute we walked into that field our emotions were set aside and we were searching for anything a little boy might drop or a snag of cloth on a stick from a little coat, or the little guys themselves.
There likely will be both CERT and Citizen Police Academy classes next year. If you are so inclined, please register and take this training and add yourself to the volunteer lists in case of emergency events in your community.