Buckeye Lake Safety Drill

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Water rescue drills give Buckeye Lake residents new perspective if the dam should fail.

Dozens of people gathered on the banks of Buckeye Lake Saturday morning to watch a Blackhawk helicopter from the Ohio Army National Guard hover over the water as a "swimmer" waved his arms about, flagging for help.

The "swimmer" was part of a safety day drill sponsored by the Ohio Emergency Management Agency, and half a dozen others, including the Ohio National Guard, The Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Ohio Task Force 1, and Emergency Management Agencies from Fairfied, Licking and Perry Counties. Also, the Ohio State Highway Patrol.

"It's important to practice these things because we don't like surprises," said Col. Anthony Dijiacomo with the Ohio Army Guard. "We like to know that we're great at doing our mission, and we are."

Saturday's demonstration included both a water rescue and a land rescue so first responders could practice communication and teamwork skills *before* a disaster strikes.

"Hard to build that teamwork at the time of the disaster," explained Evan Schumann, the executive director for Ohio's Emergency Management Agency. "Far better to do that before the disaster," he added.

Schumann said today's exercise was the second in a series of safety drills at Buckeye Lake should the dam fail. This spring, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released a report warning the nearly 180-year-old earthen dam was at risk of failing.

The state has since lowered the water level as a precaution.

But Schumann says today's exercise goes well beyond concerns surrounding the dam at Buckeye Lake. The drill was the perfect opportunity to show people the types of emergency services that are available around the entire state and at a moment's notice.

"So like Findlay, like in the past, the Ohio river, ice jams," listed Schumann. "We get a lot of flooding here in Ohio, all of this is available anywhere in Ohio .. Not just Buckeye Lake."

While first responders say this training is much like recent rescues in Texas due to massive flooring, people -- like Rob McCord -- who have lived their entire lives at Buckeye Lake say it gives them a new perspective on what goes into a 10-minute water rescue.

"A feeling of safety, that's nice to have."