AUSTIN (KXAN) — With a potential tropical disturbance in the Gulf of Mexico, state agencies in Texas are in constant communication with one another and on standby to respond to any needs.
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has activated 91 game wardens. The agency has two strike teams consisting of game wardens, supervisors, trucks, vessels of various capabilities and drone assets with operators, a helicopter hoist aircrew with a rescue swimmer and several swiftwater rescue boat squads.
“Communication is constant,” director of law enforcement Grahame Jones said. “I think that, again, speaks to the two most important aspects – teamwork and communication – because without that, you’re not going to succeed.”
Texas Parks and Wildlife is also partnering with the Texas Department of Public Safety’s search and rescue vessels, as well as their swiftwater rescue teams. Pilots were doing additional prep work Thursday afternoon to ensure the helicopter was ready in the event it was needed for search and rescue efforts. Right now, they’ve been monitoring what could happen along the Coastal Bend.
“It’s got a lot of capability as far as communication, search and rescue and law enforcement,” Chief Pilot Bryan Reed said. “Our big piece of equipment is the rescue hoist. That’s what we use for flooding and hurricane work.”
Reed says game wardens are often among the first to respond to a scene for various emergencies and disasters. Having a helicopter adds an additional tool to the department’s toolkit. During Hurricane Harvey, the department was able to rescue about a dozen people using the helicopter. It’s also outfitted with a number of devices to help with operations, such as a camera with infrared capabilities that can work when flying in the dark.
“There are a lot of situations where the only way to get people out of harm’s way is with a helicopter,” Reed said.
When duty calls, every second counts.
“Once your eyes are on the victim, you’re talking about a minute or two at the most before you’re picking those people out of the water,” Reed said.
Reed says pilots often reflect on how the helicopter is a lifesaving resource.
“I love it and I think all the pilots would say the same thing,” he said. “It’s a great organization to work for. It’s great having partners like the Department of Public Safety and some of the other folks we work with, because we work so closely with them. It’s pretty gratifying to go out. People are truly grateful when you can come and help them in a time of need like that.”