By DWR Conservation Police
Photos by Meghan Marchetti/DWR
On May 16, the Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR) Conservation Police held a mock training exercise at Smith Mountain Lake (SML), called Operation Hydro Summit. This multi-agency exercise included local law enforcement agencies and emergency personnel from Bedford County, Franklin County and the Smith Mountain Lake Marine Volunteer Fire Department. This boating accident simulation exercise was a very complex scenario with many moving parts.
Since the establishment of the Incident Command Center, participants have been actively engaged. In the initial response, (Phase 1) SML fire and rescue vessels respond to the area of a reported boating accident with someone in the water. This quickly transitions to a boat accident investigation (Phase 2) when they discover the boat, with no occupants, and DWR officers respond to begin their investigation. Shortly after, the Region 2 man tracking team and a K9 DWR team respond (Phase 3) to search for a subject that has departed the now abandoned boat.
The purpose of the exercise was to help prepare conservation officers and emergency response personnel for real-life scenarios. It also serves to demonstrate DWR’s commitment to being an inclusive team player with all of its partner organizations. What began as an investigation into a boating accident quickly led to a follow-up in mountainous areas and eventually resulted in the recovery of a dummy simulating a body by divers from the bottom of the lake.
The exercise ended with the tracking team locating the volunteer playing the role of the missing boat occupant and the SML dive team locating the dummy representing the deceased boat operator. At the end of the event, an after action review was conducted which created a positive learning environment.