Did you see all those black-hawk helicopters flying over the shore Friday morning and landing at Island Beach State Park? Emergency response teams including the New Jersey National Guard and the New Jersey State Police’s Urban Search and Rescue team held training drills on site.

"This is an integration with the FEMA organization, the New Jersey State Police, the New Jersey Air National Guard, and the New Jersey Army Guard," said Lt. Colonel William Blake of the New Jersey Air National Guard.

He explains that through the collaborative efforts of these forces, they've evaluated what went well and what communication efforts needed to be improved following Super-storm Sandy, so they can prepare for future natural disasters.

"An exact scenario that would occur is if the storm would hit...you would obviously have people that are stranded," said Blake. "We picked Island Beach State Park to represent flooding and so forth."

Blake adds that they hold these routine training sessions at various points throughout the year in an effort to continue tightening communication methods post-Sandy.

"There were stranded people (during Sandy), there were houses that were flooded...it just created a dilemma," said Blake. "You also have bridges, so the barrier islands here were virtually impossible to traverse and rescue the people."

Blake also explains part of the process of what happens should anyone become stranded in any future storm.

"That's where the New Jersey Air National Guard and the Army Guard use the helicopters to come in and lower the necessary emergency management people," said Blake. "Then perform the necessary extraction."

From there he says, an individual is transferred to a safer location inland.

One of the main goals of the training session was to tighten those communication efforts between all of the groups, especially after Sandy.

"With the capabilities that the military, state police, and FEMA have, we can now have seamless integration of communications that will ensure constant communication which will help expedite matters," said Blake.

This plan will become operational and effective enough, Blake adds, so that when a rescue is needed, everyone is on the same page.

He says those seamless efforts are ready to go for any upcoming or future storm as well.

"Since Sandy has happened, there's been many, many meetings and operational types of activities that have worked in preparation for something," said Blake.

Recent storm threats such as Hermine wouldn't have been an issue, Blake explains, because of the high learning curve following Sandy.

For more on this story watch the video and view the picture gallery featured below:

(Courtesy of Matt Hecht).





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