Rep. Dennis Devereux’s Message From Montpelier

Legislative Report from Rep. Dennis Devereux for Ludlow, Mount Holly, and Plymouth

An important issue that our committee wanted to address was the response to a search and rescue situation this past January. When a nineteen-year-old hiking in the Ripton area did not return home, his family called the emergency number. It was a very cold night with little snow on the ground. The state police leader at the scene decided to wait until morning to start the search. Unfortunately, when they found him the next day, he had suffered a broken leg and died from exposure.

The family, understandably, wanted answers to the lack of response from the Vermont State Police which takes the lead in these situations. My Committee on Government Operations asked those in leadership positions within the departments to explain why this happened, and what changes will occur to ensure this response will not happen ever again. After taking testimony from the Deputy Secretary of Public Safety, the officers that lead our State Police in charge of these search and rescue operations, and the head of our game wardens, it became obvious they were already making changes. A rough bill was drafted to get our concerns onto paper. Our committee felt it was also important to hear from the head of Stowe Mountain Rescue, a retired state police officer who led many search and rescue operations, and other stakeholders to implement some improvements right away, and at least require that more people receive the specialized training.

Some of the recommendations included earlier notification to both the local and regional responders. The creation of additional trained teams, including certified SAR volunteers that could become part of a statewide response system. The Department of Public Safety shall have the lead responsibility in any municipality without an established police department. We are seeking to get more people trained in the incident command system now used by the state police.

Our committee also felt strongly about setting up a SAR strategic plan committee that would review the existing structure, look at other state’s models, and develop a database of resources capable of assisting in each area of the state. Several bill drafts led to the recent passage of H.794. There was strong support, and we hope the senate has time to give its approval. I think all of us want to know that everything is being done as soon as possible to find anyone who is missing.

Please contact me with a message and your concerns at 800-322-5616, or ddevereux@leg.state.vt.us, or at home at 802-259-2460.

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