Thursday at Percy Priest Lake the Nashville Office of Emergency Management demonstrated a lot of the equipment they use for search and rescue, as well as, unfortunately, recovery.
However, officials said they would much rather see boaters prevent accidents.
“The biggest thing that somebody can do to prevent drowning is to learn how to swim, know the area that they’ are swimming in, and to wear a life jacket, a Coast Guard approved life jacket,” said Dave Funderburk with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
And some have advantages over others.
“The next one is probably one of the best ones even though it’s fairly inexpensive. They’ve been around for years is the Type 2 PFD,” said Capt. Mike Russell with Nashville OEM. “You can put it around a child, and you’ve got the collar which will keep their head and face out of the water, in the case that there’s a boating accident or they have trouble swimming.”
Unfortunately, the rest of the equipment and techniques they demonstrated today are used after a tragedy has occurred.
“Unfortunately, when we are called in, it means that someone has gone underneath the water and it’s a recovery operation. And so, our dogs are trained to find where the scent is rising up to the surface of the water — and they will alert us at that position,” said OEM Canine Team Leader Dr. Melissa Riley. “And then that’s where we can tell our divers to triangulate the current and show them where to go in the water.”
“We use canine to give us a smaller area to work with. And then, we’ll transition over to sonar,” said David Crane with OEM. “On this unit, we are able to take an area and somewhat, the same pattern as cutting the grass. We kind of grid an area out, run over the area with the sonar. And this gives us targets of interest that we’ll mark, and the divers will go bounce those targets instead of just going down there and having to sweep and feel blind.”
We certainly don’t want to scare you away from the lake. You can have a great time out there, but just be safe! As the late, great Jimmy Holt would say: “Have a good day, and don’t forget to wear your life jacket!