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Saturday August 1st, 2015 4:16PM

Georgia DNR conducts rescue training at Tallulah Gorge

By Rob Moore Reporter
TALLULAH FALLS - When an injured hiker, boater or recreationalist becomes stranded in a hard-to-reach place, who comes to the rescue?<br /> <br /> In addition to specially-trained, ground-based personnel often the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Aviation Division is called to retrieve that person.<br /> <br /> This week, personnel from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and other agencies spent much of the day in Tallulah Gorge practicing for emergency rescues.<br /> <br /> The long-line training in the gorge involved two helicopters and highlighted Georgia DNR Law Enforcement Division Rangers, pilots and aerial observers.<br /> <br /> "The gorge has about 50-something injuries a year," said Park Manager Danny Tatum. "Is aviation always called? No, but we never know when it can happen so it's very vital."<br /> <br /> Tallulah Falls Mayor Carl Seaman was one of those who donned a helmet and was able to fly in the rescue helicopter as it practiced missions into the gorge.<br /> <br /> Seaman praised the DNR aviation capabilities and their benefit to his town of 200 people and its volunteer fire department.<br /> <br /> "Often, it takes our rescue people out of risky situations, and it also speeds up the process," Seaman said. "If somebody gets hurt down here and they need to be moved out quick, the helicopter - if it's time-sensitive - is the way to go."<br /> <br /> Seaman believes the DNR aviation resources are an important complement to the efforts of local rescue personnel, and especially critical to timely patient care.<br /> <br /> "I do think that it is a huge benefit for the town," Seaman said. "We're not usually told what happens when somebody's airlifted out, but I'd be curious to know how many people it's actually saved their life or saved them from some permanent damage or some other issues."<br /> <br /> Just a week prior to the aviation training in the gorge, it took rescuers from a half-dozen agencies more than four hours to carry an injured woman from the gorge floor to an ambulance waiting at the top.<br /> <br /> DNR personnel said a gorge patient retrieval involving their aircraft a few months ago took about 12 minutes total and included three trips into the gorge - first to drop the basket, then to pick up the patient, and finally to retrieve equipment. Obviously that was after personnel on the ground evaluated and prepared the patient.<br /> <br /> Trained rescue personnel still have to travel into the gorge on foot to reach and assess each patient, and to determine how critical it is to get that injured person out quickly.<br /> <br /> Still, Seaman rests better knowing the DNR aviation resources are available.<br /> <br /> "Even if you don't use them, it's a comfort to know that they're there if you need them," Seaman said. "I don't think you can understate the importance of having them around."
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