ENC first responders detail training for bridge emergencies

CARTERET COUNTY, N.C. (WITN) – Following the catastrophic bridge collapse in Baltimore, we wanted to learn more about what training goes into preparing for bridge emergencies here in the east.

It’s training done for something that the Atlantic Beach Fire Department Deputy Chief Casey Arthur said he hopes never happens.

“We train on those types of things all the time,” Arthur said.

Having dealt with boats crashing into the Atlantic Beach and Morehead City bridge, Arthur said many steps are taken to ensure the safety of everyone involved.

“Really the main thing we’re trying to do is life safety,” Arthur said. “When you talk about something like a bridge collapse, like what happened Tuesday morning, a lot of people focus on the enormity of the event, the whole bridge collapsing, but really what we’re focused on is getting the people that are viable out of the water. So that would be our main focus.”

According to Arthur, his team does countless water rescue training every year and has the ability to do some side scan sonar work, similar to what was used in Baltimore Tuesday morning to locate cars and victims.

Arthur said the key to the best outcome is teamwork.

“We’re all a big team even though we’re individual departments, we’re a big team and we will call on reinforcements that we need when the time comes,” Arthur said. “Not just from the state but anywhere we need them, from local, federal, and state resources.”

More training can be seen in other counties as well. According to Craven County Emergency Services Director Stanley Kite, they have first responders who are equipped with sonar as well and are in the process of getting a remote operated vehicle to help in underwater observation.

Now, training continues to ensure they’re always prepared.

“We don’t have the potential for a large cargo ship to hit anything like that, but we do stay aware of that possibility,” Arthur said.

The water and air temperatures are the biggest obstacles they face, according to Arthur, and what the crews in Baltimore are facing, as it could make an impact on the viability of the victims.

A statement was released Tuesday by North Carolina Ports Executive Director Brian Clark said,“ Our thoughts are with the Port of Baltimore, the community, those directly impacted, and the first responders still engaged in the important search and rescue work. We are monitoring the situation and are in close communication with our various partners, customers and port users as the situation continues to develop.

For our host communities, in response to many inquiries we’ve received this morning regarding safe navigation of vessels it is important to note that commercial vessels do not need to navigate under bridges to access either of our deep-water ports. We, along with our federal and state agency partners, are committed to continually evaluating the safe movement of goods and vessels in and out of our facilities.

Customers are now evaluating their supply chain options and NC Ports stands ready to assist and support the larger supply chain network as needed.”