Agencies not notified of Emergency Drill

LEWISTON, N.Y. - When the call came out for an overturned jet boat in the Niagara River near Devil's Hole Sunday morning, emergency crews were ready to respond.

The problem was some Niagara County rescue agencies weren't notified ahead of time that it was just a drill, and no one was actually in danger.

The radio transmissions started around 9:30 a.m. The following is a transcript of the conversation between a dispatcher and first responders archived on Broadcastify.

Niagara County Dispatcher: Fire Control to Upper Mountain, Lewiston One (fire companies), you're requested Devil's Hole State Park. We have a jet boat that has overturned, stating approximately four to six people in the water.

About a minute later, a man is heard saying that he is responding, though it's unclear which department he is from. About a minute after that, another man can be heard asking for an update, and the dispatcher answers that there isn't one. 

Roughly six minutes after the initial scanner transmission requesting a response to Devil's Hole, the dispatcher radios to the two first responders she was previously communicating with.

Dispatcher: It is a training exercise.  Repeating a training exercise at Devil's Hole.  

Male voice: Did anyone notify you this was a training exercise before now?

Dispatcher: That's a negative.

Whirlpool Jet Boat Tours general manager Garry Hierlihy told 2 On Your Side the company's president and CEO, John Kinney, notified the Niagara Parks Commission and New York State Park Police of the planned exercise.  

Hierlihy said that has been the procedure in the past.  He said the Niagara County Sheriff's Office was not notified.

The Coast Guard in Buffalo told 2 On Your Side they were not notified in advance that this was a training exercise.  They heard the call come out over the scanner, and they responded by sending a 25-foot boat with training personnel on board.

When asked if more agencies should have been made aware of the drill — especially those who would respond in an actual emergency — Hierlihy said the company will review its communication protocol.

© 2017 WGRZ-TV


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