October 9, 2015 – McENTIRE JOINT NATIONAL GUARD BASE, S.C. – South and North Carolina Helicopter Aquatic Rescue Teams participated in emergency operation efforts during an Oct. 8 statewide flood response.
The two teams have been activated for state duty to support state and county emergency management agencies and local first responders as historic flooding impacts South Carolina counties.
They are among more than 2,800 members of the National Guard who have responded in the wake of the disaster.
1xSC-HART and NC-HART are two of five total states involved in the helicopter aquatic rescue team family, said Tim Rogers, the helicopter search and rescue lead for NC-HART.
Both organizations have a short-haul capability, which allows them to attach a 100-foot rope to the underbelly of the aircraft and hoist up to five people at a time from the ground.
“We go into the area and remove a large number people in a very, very short period of time compared to what it would take via ground transport,” said Tom Webb, a rescue team leader with SC-HART. “We have the ability to insert the rescuer or rescuers in a timely manner to be able to provide them the extraction and transportation to medical facilities or to get them out of harm’s way.”
SC-HART performed more than 25 extractions during the flood, and searched hundreds of flooded structures that couldn’t be reached by any other means to ensure no one was stranded in the rising water.
“We have secured every helicopter rescue device that we know of that’s manufactured because our survivors come in all shapes, sizes and age groups, so we have to be prepared for whatever we encounter,” said Webb.
Both organizations are trained in vertical mountain rescue, swift water rescue, flood rescue and high-rise structures rescue.
“Each NC-HART aircraft has a compliment of seven personnel: Two pilots, two crew chiefs and three rescuers,” said Rogers.
Becoming a member of SC-HART or NC-HART isn’t an easy process. One must first be a member of the Urban Search and Rescue Team, and only after they that been active for at least two years can they become a member of the HART family.
“There is a testing process and about a year of training involved before being considered mission ready,” said Webb.
The rigorous training program seems to be worth the trouble, because members of the HART family are very passionate about what they do.
“There’s not a better feeling than helping someone that’s in dire straits,” said Webb. “They’re having the worst moment of their life, and we can go in and make it better. You can’t put a value on that.”
Since the South Carolina flooding began, the teams have been on constant alert, ready to deploy when called. The joint teams have responded, providing life-saving help to people in need.
“It’s an honor and privilege knowing that our partners in South Carolina have a similar program and seeing how well we’ve worked together,” said Rogers. “Relations between South Carolina and North Carolina have been seamless.”