Home Local News Richmond County hosting statewide search and rescue exercise at Diggs Tract

Richmond County hosting statewide search and rescue exercise at Diggs Tract

Robert Berry of the Richmond County Rescue Squad searches along the edge of N.C. 38 Tuesday for the body of a missing woman in May 2021.
RO file photo

ROCKINGHAM — If you see groups of men walking around the Diggs Tract dressed in military-style clothing next weekend, emergency management officials say “don’t be alarmed.”

Richmond County is hosting the RockSAR 2022 Exercise, a simulated search and rescue training mission at the 1,665-acre area near the Pee Dee River March 18-20.

“We are excited to host this event here in Richmond County as this will be the biggest Statewide Search and Rescue Event to be hosted in Central N.C.,” Emergency Management Director Bob Smith said in an email Thursday.

According to a flier for the event, the exercise will be divided into four 12-hour operational periods and will be managed using the National Incident Management System.

“This statewide event will bring participants from all over North Carolina to sharpen their skills in a variety of Search and Rescue Techniques,” Smith said, adding that more than 200 people have already registered..

The types of teams may include ground search, technical rescue, unmanned aircraft systems (drones) and K-9 teams.


The flier states that the scenarios “will involve combining knowledge, skills, and abilities to overcome challenges faced in real-world searches.”

“Teams will be in the wooded areas from the Wildlife Access point at the far end of Old Cheraw Highway all the way up to Hitchcock Creek,” Smith said. There will be some signage out to warn motorists of the extra foot traffic in the area.”

Current first responders (fire, rescue, EMS, law enforcement, emergency management) can receive continuing education credits from Richmond Community College at no charge. Others wanting credits will be charged a $125 continuing education fee, according to the flier.

This isn’t the first time Richmond County has hosted search and rescue training.

In 2019, Richmond County Emergency Services and Ellerbe-based Pineland Search and Rescue sponsored an operation at Millstone 4-H Camp. That event brought out first responders from Beaufort, Wake, Guilford and Pender counties in North Carolina and a team from Spartanburg, South Carolina. A previous exercise was held at the same location in 2017.

Last April, 18 first responders from across the Sandhills trained for swift water and flood rescues in the Pee Dee River. At the time, Smith said there had been 14 water rescue calls since 2018.


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