June 2008

Vigilant Guard: Daufuskie Island is in Good Hands

Author: Paul deVere

On April 20, at approximately 1 p.m., Beaufort County suffered a 7.3-scale earthquake. On April 21, over 2,000 SC National Guard, their compatriots from neighboring states, Beaufort County’s Emergency Management Department, and first responders went into action.

You didn’t feel it? Not to worry. The above was the scenario for the largest emergency exercise ever held by the SC National Guard. Labeled “Vigilant Guard 08,” it was created to test capabilities of the groups participating: organization, tactics and communications. It was impressive.

Daufuskie Island Fire Department volunteer, John Tietjen, is extricated from a staged truck accident with the help of Girdy Howard from Beaufort County EMS.

While most of the action took place around Beaufort, Daufuskie Island was also included. Ninety members of the South Carolina National Guard were airlifted by Chinook helicopter, and another helicopter delivered a pallet of bottled water, which was part of the “big plan.” While the Guard was heartily welcomed by islanders (kids got out of school to tour a helicopter), and the Chinooks were very cool, a pallet of bottled water? Hello?

Daufuskie Island Fire Chief, Ed Boys, decided to enrich the experience for his team of professional firefighters, department volunteers and the Daufuskie Island EMS staff.

Think about it. Daufuskie does not have a bridge. You get on and off by boat or by helicopter. Period. So Chief Boys arranged for a chlorine “leak” at Bloody Point, at the south end of the island, followed by a truck “accident,” including fire, about mid-island, near the elementary school.

With Boys’ team, everything came off like clock work: chlorine leak stopped; accident victim saved. The pallet of water was a bit late, but the kids at school got a really cool look at a helicopter. And golfers at Haig Point had a legitimate question: If you hit a Chinook helicopter and your ball bounces out of bounds, do you get a free drop?

“Victim” and volunteer firefighter John Tietjen fully recovered.

But the event was no laughing matter. Lives and property are at stake, as the exercise demonstrated. Daufuskie Island’s first responders did their job.

The only complaint came from the “victim” of the “crash” who was covered with catsup. The very good sport and volunteer firefighter John Tietjen commented, “Everybody said I smelled like a hot dog.”

Daufuskie Island is in good hands.

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