Local emergency officials discuss mutual aid in wake of Summer Wells’ search

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HAWKINS COUNTY, Tenn. (WJHL) — Local officials say they value the teamwork between the dozens of agencies that assisted in the ground search for missing Hawkins County 5-year-old Summer Wells.

“To see not only our area locally, but to see the whole state of Tennessee and to also see bordering states come together and literally go off without a hitch, without a foul word, without disagreement, it literally meshed and went as fluid as it could’ve been,” said Tim Coup of the Church Hill Rescue Squad. Coup has been the incident commander of the ground search.

Even though the search effort has been dialed back, Coup says teams are still calling and asking how they can assist.

More than 100 agencies have been involved in the search.

Other local emergency officials say teamwork is critical when there is an incident requiring a large response, such as a missing child.

“So many resources were needed on this operation that there was no way we could have sustained that within Hawkins County,” said Hawkins County Emergency Management Director Jamie Miller. “So obviously we needed to reach out to the region for assistance for this particular operation.”

Washington County EMA Director Rusty Sells says mutual aid allows agencies to share equipment and resources.

“If the counties work together, each county doesn’t have to buy every single piece of equipment,” Sells said. “If we buy something, Hawkins County buys a different piece of equipment, Sullivan County buys a different piece of equipment but it’s all used in the same response.”

“That takes a lot of the weight off of the different counties to have to buy everything that they need because it’s a district response so all that equipment is coming,” Sells said. “It may not be housed in Hawkins County or Washington County, but all we have to do is pick up the phone and it’s there.”

Sells says part of an EMA director’s job is to avoid duplicating efforts in other counties.

Both Mille and Sells say knowing that other local agencies are willing to provide mutual aid is reassuring.

“Just knowing that we can pick up the phone and have that person there within an hour and they’re more than willing to come and help, that gives me a lot of confidence in being able to do my job knowing that there is somebody out there that’s got my back, somebody that’s going to help me get my job done when it does go to a scene that’s this large and going multiple weeks,” Sells said. “It’s a confidence builder.”

CONTINUING COVERAGE: The Search for Summer Wells

“To know that the community is willing to come run to your aid just makes you feel more confident in the job that you do every day and we extend our willingness to respond to any incident where we’re needed at in the future as well,” Miller said.

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