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Whiting to the rescue

By By Robert Blankenship, Special to The Advance
If a catastrophe occurred within Escambia County, local residents know that the sheriff's office, local police departments, fire departments and other rescue personnel will respond.
But, in the some cases, residents can expect the help of safety officials from Whiting Field NAS. They came to East Brewton Thursday night to demonstrate some of the equipment they have to offer.
Safety personnel from both the Whiting Field Fire Department and Security Force are always on call for emergencies within the five-county, two-state area that includes Escambia (Ala.), Conecuh, Baldwin, Escambia (Fla.) and Santa Rosa counties. They may be called in to assist with any major emergencies within these counties as these are the areas where they hold flight training drills.
The purpose of Thursday's exhibition of various equipment was to let local officials know the type of equipment that is available to them.
Among the items Whiting Field brought to East Brewton was its mobile command post - a mobile-home type vehicle complete with a communications station, computers and a host of other features. They also brought in a John Deere Fire Gator, which is an all-terrain vehicle that could be used to help fight woodland fires. It holds the capacity for 70 gallons of water.
In addition to equipment, Stone said the 63 people that make up Whiting Fields fire department and Security Force are also on call if local officials feel they are needed. The Security Force is the naval bases own police department.
But, the visit was about more than just demonstrating equipment. It was also about getting to know each other.
Brewton Fire Chief Lawrence Weaver, East Brewton Fire Chief Joey Shell, Alabama Forester with Escambia County Randy Cannon as well as many representatives from area volunteer fire departments were on hand to see the equipment.
Being a training center for naval pilots, Whiting officials know that there is always a chance that a plane can go down. They use Brewton, as well as Evergreen, as landing and take-off points. Stone said it makes sense that local officials be aware of the possibility of a downed aircraft within their area.
If a plane were to go down in Escambia, Stone said saving life is the first priority and saving property is the second. He said local safety officials should do what they can to help any victims.
But, plane crashes would not be the only reason that local officials might call on Whiting Field. Stone said the equipment is available during hurricanes, forest fires and any other catastrophe where local officials feel the additional equipment and manpower is needed.
Stone said he hoped there would be a chance in the future to hold mock drills with Escambia County officials to help prepare them for a downed aircraft.