November 23, 2010

Hatteras Island Rescue is recognized for supporting the
Weather Service’s rip current forecasting

The Hatteras Island Rescue Squad has been awarded a certificate of appreciation by the National Weather Service office in Newport, N.C, for the group’s help in the rip current forecasting program.

“As Meteorologist-in-Charge, I’d like to express my gratitude and that of the entire staff of the National Weather Office in Newport for your dedicated efforts to help support our rip current forecasting program,” Richard Bandy said in a letter to the rescue squad. “The reports that you and the entire staff of the Hatteras Island Rescue Squad provided us throughout the season were extremely important for our rip current forecasting and verification.  Real time reports allow us to better assess current threat levels and make adjustments as necessary.”

Bandy also noted that without the frequent and detailed reports from HIRS, The Weather Service could not have built the database necessary to improve the forecasts from the dangerous currents.

“Because of your efforts,” he wrote, “in the future we hope to better identify the threat of rip currents and cut down on the frequency of false alarms in predicting an elevated threat.”

“Hatteras Island Rescue worked closely this past summer with the National Weather Service by providing daily, detailed reports of rescues, observed rip currents, shorebreak, longshore current and beachgoer population,” the squad’s assistant chief, Bob Helle, said in a news release. “These daily reports give the NWS real time feedback and aid in the next day’s rip current forecast.”  

Of all the rescue agencies that participated in the daily reporting to the NWS, Hatteras Island Rescue sent in the most reports – 108..  Since the area of responsibility for Hatteras Island Rescue encompasses both an east (north of Cape Point) and a south-southeast facing beach (south of Cape Point), conditions can be radically different.

Helle said that Hatteras Island Rescue also conducted a total of 20 safety patrols on days when the rip threat was high.  Although no formal "red flag" program exists on Hatteras Island, Hatteras Island Rescue beach vehicles are outfitted with large red flags that are flown on high threat days.  These 20 safety patrols conducted during June, July, and August totaled 49 hours (208 man hours).  

During these patrols, rescue personnel warned 12 people who were either digging or sitting in deep holes. Annually about a dozen people nationwide are killed when the holes collapse. They also warned 18 swimmers that were too far out or swimming too close to an observed rip current and answered hundreds of questions from "Can we have a bonfire?" to "Where's a good place to eat?" and everything in between.

Within the Hatteras Island Rescue Squad’s area of responsibility – from Ramp 30 to Hatteras Inlet -- there were no water-related fatalities this past season.

During the last season, Hatteras Island Rescue reported the follow activities:

Dispatched to assist Dare County EMS 67 times.  
Dispatched to beach medical calls 21 times.
Conducted 11 water rescues in the Pamlico Sound.
Conducted 28 ocean rescues.
Responded to 26 motor vehicle accidents.
Dispatched to the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse for medical emergencies four times.
Responded to six missing/lost persons (on land).
Responded to children locked in cars four times.
Trained and certified 22 EMTs.
Trained and certified 113 persons in CPR/AED in monthly classes offered to the public.

In June, Hatteras Island Rescue established a Facebook page.  It has become a useful tool to quickly "get the word out" for increased rip threat and Highway 12 flooding and closures, and also provided real-time updates during Hurricane Earl.  The squad now has more than 1,100 fans.

Hatteras Island Rescue is an all-volunteer organization.

“Thank you to all who responded to our annual fundraising letter,” Helle said.  “With your help, dedicated volunteers, and a little luck, we hope to have another successful year.”

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