Federal, local, and state first responders participate in Guntersville boat drills

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GUNTERSVILLE, Ala. – Federal, state, and local law enforcement and first responding agencies hit the water Thursday in Marshall County to test out some of their tactical abilities.

“This is probably as unique an opportunity as any of us will ever get. Unfortunately, although we’ve got experienced boat operators that participated today, almost none of us have ever come alongside a moving vessel and had to station ourselves beside that vessel, much less offload a tac team or boarding officers,” explained Guntersville Police Chief Jim Peterson.

While the water was rough, participants told News 19 the event itself went smoothly.

“Everybody got in a groove and followed the prompt, and we were just one right after another, moving through the scenarios. It was a little wet, some of the water was a little bit rough, but that’s real life also, it could be the same way if we’re called for something like this for real,” said Guntersville Rescue Squad member CJ Jones.

The teams practiced creating a partnership response to a transportation security incident.

“Could be anything from a terrorist attack to a major collision to a major pollution case,” said U.S. Coast Guard Marine Safety Detachment Nashville supervisor Lt. Cmdr. Robert Gay.

There were also man-overboard drills and “touch and go’s”.

“Training is always important of course in any aspect of any kind of emergency services. If you don’t train, you’re not staying up on your game,” Jones added.

Peterson said the conditions in the practice scenario were different from what they normally encounter.

“When you’re around a tug boat, which most people want to stay away from, the water dynamics and the wind and all the factors that come into your boat handling are really challenged,” said Peterson.

“The tug boat creates a draft or suction motion,” explained Gay.

While some of the situations they practiced don’t come around very often, first responders told News 19 it is important they prepare for anything and everything.

“The Coast Guard is not close to here and the Marine Police may or may not be available immediately if something nefarious were to happen on the water. It’s going to be the most local agency that’s going to have to respond to something like that and wait for help to come so it’s absolutely critical for us to be able to perform this type of operation,” said Peterson.

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