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Search and rescue
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A small group of search and rescuers clustered together on a hilltop at the FFA-FCCLA Center preparing for the thunderous roar of the approaching helicopter.

As the monstrous machine began to hover overhead, the rescuers converged on the dangling basket twisting in the wind tunnel created by the swirling blades.

Within seconds, the rescue basket had been disconnected and carefully placed on the ground as the helicopter rushes away. The rest of the team prepared on the ground. Moments later, the helicopter approached again, this time for extraction.

A spotter hung out the side of the craft to guide the thick cable to the ground team. With little wasted motion, the rescue basket was quickly reattached and, with a thumbs up from the men on the ground, the helicopter was off to transport the patient to the waiting ambulance.

Or at least that is what the training drill is supposed to simulate.

The Department of Natural Resources Search and Rescue pilot and spotter were just a few of the experienced instructors teaching at the Second Annual Georgia Search and Rescue Conference.

"In a real situation, the victim would probably have been on a cliff or in a wooded area," said Gary Andrew, a DNR Search and Rescue Team member. "It can be a bit tricky."

The ground team for the simulation was comprised of students attending the five-day event.

 "We have a wide variety of people here," said Kim Hatcher, the public affairs coordinator for Georgia State Parks. "The group includes people from all over the state who range from experienced rescuers to those who have no experience at all."

The 110 participants represented 40 different agencies including firefighters, police, emergency workers and other rescuers. The students gathered to learn from the best; the DNR Search and Rescue Team is the largest such entity in Georgia and is comprise of about 100 volunteers. Of those volunteers, 90 percent are employees of DNR while the other 10 percent are civilian rescuers.

"We keep the number around 100 because we only want the best of the best out there when a life could be on the line," Hatcher said. "When someone goes missing, everyone wants to help, but sometimes they can be more a risk than a help."

The DNR Search and Rescue Team is called in whenever a person is reported missing in a state park, but other trained professionals are needed in other areas of the state.

"If we can get people from all corners of the state that puts us in a better position to help when something happens anywhere in the state," Andrew said. "Then people will be able to call on their neighbor for help."

To prepare the courses at the conference, Andrew said the rescuers first look at what they teach themselves and then decided what was most important for others to know.

"It is not just a bunch of volunteers lining up and walking through the woods," Hatcher said. "They teach things the average person would not think of. It is amazing how scientific it all really is."

In one course, the DNR rescuers taught the students how to determine a realistic range a person could have traveled by using little more than a footprint in the mud, a good description of the missing person and a walking stick, Hatcher said.

If you would like to support they DNR search and rescue team, please call the Friends of DNR Search and Rescue (770) 975-7533 or visit the Web site at