Four “stranded” divers and a boat operator were “safely rescued” during a search and rescue exercise conducted Thursday on Saipan by over 30 personnel from the CNMI and Guam.
“The coordination went well,” according to Homeland Security and Emergency Management special assistant Marvin K. Seman.
A big challenge of the exercise, Seman said, was the radio communication problem due to the hill and tower that were blocking their signal.
Seman said they were already aware of the problem because of prior search and rescue incidents in that area. He disclosed that they will install equipment in their response vehicles this week to address the problem.
The exercise took place at Ladder Beach, Obyan Beach, Sugar Dock in Chalan Kanoa, Smiling Cove Marina, and the waterway between the islands of Saipan and Tinian.
The participants used five rescue boats: a U.S. Coast Guard cutter, Department of Public Safety’s Zodiac 2 and 3, and Fire boat, and Division of Fish and Wildlife’s boat. There were also response vehicles, operation centers, and support personnel.
Seman said the exercise was intended to hone the skills of the responders in searching for and rescuing individuals in distress.
Aside from HSEM, U.S. Coast Guard, DPS Boating Safety, Police, and Fire Division, and Division of Fish and Wildlife, the Commonwealth Ports Authority Ports Police-Harbor Patrol, and Division of Environmental Quality also joined the training.
Seman said the exercise began at 9:20am with the scenario that they received a call about a distressed vessel and four overdue or unaccounted divers.
The boat operator called for assistance; 911 was notified and the report was relayed to the emergency operations center. Police officers and HSEM personnel were sent to Ladder Beach to investigate. After the call was confirmed, DPS Boating Safety boats were then launched.
Additional support was requested from CPA Harbor Patrol and DPS Fire boat to search from Naftan Point to Coral Ocean Point all the way to the Tinian channel. An incident command post was set up at Ladder Beach. Guam Coast Guard was then notified.
Five rescue boats conducted a grid search. The stranded boat was found past 10am and was towed to shore. After an hour, the rescue teams located the “stranded divers,” brought them to a boat and transported them to Sugar Dock, where an ambulance and medics were waiting.