First responders and fire departments are always preparing to respond to worst-case scenarios.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Baltimore District, alongside area emergency responders did just that Oct. 13 during a training exercise simulating rescue operations in the event of a medical emergency at East Sidney Lake Dam.

"This was a great opportunity for our fire fighters to get in and see the dam and work with the Army Corps of Engineers," said Danny Peterson, Wells Bridge Fire Department chief.

More than 25 members of the Wells Bridge, Otego and Unadilla fire departments practiced safety procedures and rescue operations in confined spaces during the training simulation.

The exercise took several months of meeting and planning between first responders and Baltimore District team members. They conducted pre-safety briefs, a facility walk through and employed the assistance of occupational and safety health specialists to ensure a safe working environment.

"Exercises to help prepare for unexpected events during normal operations are often hard to plan," said Philip Santee, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Baltimore District safety and occupational health specialist. "From a safety professional perspective, it is encouraging to see Army Corps personnel take ownership of events like this and execute such a successful and well-thought-out exercise."

The first responders practiced an emergency basket lift and chain fall, which is a mechanical device used to execute a rescue lift of injured personnel from the lower levels of the dam -- training that could potentially play a lifesaving role. The scenario also served to familiarize local first responders with the dam layout and unique logistical challenges.

"This was a great retrieval exercise," said Sharon McCain, Baltimore District Flood Risk Management Branch. "The local emergency teams were impressive with their overall communication and organization driving this exercise."

East Sidney Lake Dam was constructed by the Army Corps for flood risk management. It is located on Ouleout Creek in Delaware County, New York, and is approximately four miles downstream from the village of Franklin and six miles upstream from Unadilla. The size of the dam makes it a challenging place to execute rescues; it is 2,010 feet long and rises 130 feet above the streambed. The spillway and five gated outlets are located in the concrete dam section.

"It's easy to see how well prepared our dam operators and supporting staff at the District are for protecting our employees, infrastructure and the surrounding communities they support," said Santee. "Not only will the personnel involved learn a lot from this event, but our lessons learned will also be shared across all of our dam projects to ensure continued safe operations."

Drills and safety-related training events are conducted to ensure the safety of dam operators and employees, as well as community first responders. Baltimore District operates 14 dams and will conduct similar training at each location in the future.

"The first responders really took safety to heart to protect the team," said Bob Gardner, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Baltimore District maintenance mechanic. "I can't believe the response from the three fire departments. They were eager to learn, and I feel confident they will know exactly what to do if the worse-case scenario happens."