Task force preps for life-saving missions with GPS training - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Task force preps for life-saving missions with GPS training

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A regional search and rescue team hit the ground running Tuesday for some special training as they prepare for their most crucial missions, including responding to areas hit by severe weather and other natural disasters.

Alabama Task Force 3 conducted a full scale exercise at Lake Guntersville State Park. The team provides search and rescue capabilities for North Alabama.

The training started in the classroom, covering the use of GPS in a wide search area to locate victims and other possible obstacles.

Then the teams pretended they were on a real life mission with field recon practice.

“We're teaching these guys in the case of a lost person, someone stranded on the river or stranded anywhere, a natural disaster where we have to use GPS locations in order to find someone or find a hazard, learn how to find waypoints using GPS and electronic technology. We're also working with our communications guys to make sure we can communicate in some remote areas,” said Lt. Stacey Rose, a task force leader with Decatur Fire & Rescue.

“With severe weather on the horizon and tornadoes, it's important for us to be able to accurately locate points that may have hazards or where victims are so we can report them back to our command,” added Cpt. Dustin Spires, a task force leader with Madison Fire & Rescue.

The GPS training is vital to enhancing the team’s search efforts, especially in areas they might not be that familiar with.

“If it were a natural disaster, we would have the issues of cell phones not working, as well as other electronic devices that we become so dependent on. These GPS units we use are all satellite fed GPS units so we don't have to worry about cell phones not working, towers being knocked out. We can work straight off the satellites and use these to find locations we might not otherwise be able to find,” Lt. Rose said.

The team consists of members from Madison, Decatur, Boaz, Fort Payne, Arab, Albertville, Cullman, Guntersville and Redstone Arsenal fire departments. 

“You never know in the case of the natural disaster, who or when you will be working with another agency. Coming together and training together lets you be familiar with one another. This group has been together for about four years so it's almost like we're members of the same department even though we all go back to a different city to work tonight,” Lt. Rose added.

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