LA CROSSE, Wisconsin (WXOW) – The Coast Guard Auxiliary is known for providing vessel safety checks, safety patrols and assisting with search and rescue missions.
But it's also their duty to assist the Coast Guard in the event of an emergency.
As part of their fall district training Saturday, the Eighth Western Rivers Region Coast Guard Auxiliary learned how to respond to an oil spill.
"We need to constantly be practicing because if anything did happen, it's better to be doing the exercises right now than 3 o'clock in the morning when you have blue lights flashing in your face," said Matt Stokes, part of the boat crew for the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary.
Stokes led the emergency response course, teaching crews ways to anchor an oil boom and contain a potential spill. Then equipment can come in and pick up the oil.
"The active duty component is hours away, these people are minutes away. So having them have some cursory knowledge of spill response is a great idea," Stokes said.
Even if oil spills aren't common in La Crosse, he added.
La Crosse Firefighter Steve Kramer was also on hand for the training.
"It's really good for us as a department to know what equipment, what knowledge they have to assist us in a river emergency," Kramer said.
He took a look at the drill and teaching material to see how the auxiliary could help in a local emergency.
"Those extra hands on scene are vital. As we know, with budget constraints, manning is down to minimal levels," Kramer said.
Stokes said it's helpful that the local auxiliary is familiar with the river, so if any kind of emergency were to happen – including an oil spill – they'd be ready to help.
Recently, the Coast Guard Auxiliary helped patrol the river in response to a fatal tugboat accident at Lock and Dam No. 7 in Dresbach in July.
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