Communication on creek improved

Before paddlers take to the water on Saturday for the Friends of Sugar Creek Canoe Race, organizers know it will be a much safer race.

Local emergency responders now know a new communication system has drastically improved radio traffic along the creek.

While attending planning meetings for the race, Montgomery County Emergency Management Assistant Director Brian Campbell was in contact with the Indiana Department of Resources. His safety plan for the event, garnered DNR approval, but Campbell wanted to take the emergency response preparedness to the next level.

During discussions with the DNR, it became apparent the state’s new communication system known as Integrated Public Safety Communication P-25 had never been tested on the creek. Campbell all law enforcement agencies have expressed concern that communication along the creek was poor, especially south of Crawfordsville.

“The problem, for years, has been that we have never had radio communications along the southern part of the creek in the county,” Campbell said. “It got so bad, there was virtually no communication around the Shades State Park area.”

Campbell and Tyler Clements, the state’s IPSC coordinator, and officers with the DNR agreed it was time to see if the new system improved emergency communications along the creek. Last week, they got their answer.

On May 10, Campbell, Clements and four DNR officers tested the equipment on the creek from the Crawfordsville Country Club to Deers Mill. Clements staged his command center at the Sugar Creek Campground as Campbell and the DNR officers slowly traveled down the creek. Every two minutes the officers would radio a voice command to check if they could be heard. The results were excellent.

“The guys from the DNR at first were doubtful that the new system would work on the creek because nothing else ever has,” Campbell said. “We were all pleased that for the first time, we have good communication all along Sugar Creek.”

In addition to testing the communication system, Campbell and DNR officers located potential landing spots for medical helicopters in case of an emergency. They plotted the areas they deemed safe for landing giving the county another first.

“The timing was perfect to get all the testing done and locate safe landing zones for med-vacs,” Campbell said. “Establishing pre-designated landing zones is a big benefit to both StatFlight and our emergency response agencies. They now have the GPS coordinates of the landing areas and that is big.”

Whether race day, or any other day, Campbell knows local responders are ready.

As part of his efforts to make the upcoming canoe race safe, Campbell created an emergency management plan and established three safety checkpoints for racers. Those checkpoints will be manned by members of the newly formed Community Emergency Response Team. CERT Coordinator Dave Johnson will have at least three or four volunteers at each station. They will provide water for the paddlers as well as any other assistance needed.

Campbell also recruited volunteers from the Darlington, Waveland and New Market Volunteer Fire Departments to help during the canoe race.

Registration for the race will be open from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Sugar Creek Campgrounds off U.S. 136W. All paddlers must check in and pick up their goodie bag and boat identification labels. After a 1 p.m. safety briefing, recreational paddlers will start at 1:15 p.m. and USCA paddlers will start at 1:30 p.m. An awards ceremony will be held at Clement’s Canoes near Deers Mill Bridge at approximately 4:30 p.m.