Practice search turns real for Kingston responders

Practice search turns real for Kingston responders
Kingston police run training exercise to find fictitious missing child
Kingston police and community volunteers begin search for Archie Zagrodney, 80, missing since Tuesday. Ian MacAlpine / Postmedia

Kingston police summoned some emergency response team members, about a dozen police community volunteers and brought in their incident command centre vehicle Tuesday morning to conduct a search at Belle Park as part of an exercise.

The scenario was to try to find a missing person in the dense woods of the former municipal golf course.

But when that exercise ended late Tuesday morning, police and volunteers were dispatched to the Memorial Centre parking lot for a real search.

Kingston police are asking for the publics assistance in locating Archie Zagrodney, 80, missing since Tuesday. Postmedia

After meeting with the co-ordinator of the search next to one of the barns on the Memorial Centre property, emergency response members and community volunteers combed the area around the Memorial Centre, looking in backyards, inside vehicles and showing Zagrodney’s picture to anyone they ran into.

In a news release, police said Zagrodney was in good health and his family reported no issues with dementia. He was last seen on video on Monday at about 2:25 p.m. at an apartment building on Concession Street. His vehicle was found at his home and there was no signs of a disturbance.

Kingston police and community volunteers gather in the area of the Kingston Memorial Centre in Kingston on Tuesday. Ian MacAlpine / Ian MacAlpine/Kingston Whig-Standard/Postmedia Network

Zagrodney was last known to be wearing a red jacket, black pants and black shoes. If seen or if anyone has any information, call Kingston police at 613-549-4660.

More than 20 police officers and volunteers gathered at Kingston’s Belle Park early Tuesday for an important missing persons training exercise.

The team was given a specific scenario: race against the clock to find a seven-year-old child with developmental disabilities.

Const. Cam Mack with Kingston police said the team was told the child had been last seen at bedtime the night before.

“This morning, when the parents went to check on him around 7 a.m., he was missing and they discovered the back door was ajar.”

Mack explained that what unfolds is a series of progressive steps. A full ground search, like the one police practised Tuesday, typically doesn’t start right away. Patrol officers would first go to the house and collect some basic details.

“They’d conduct an initial search of the residence, the immediate area, get initial information, and that information goes to our watch commander,” Mack said.

In Tuesday’s scenario, Belle Park is near the child’s home, so incident command and the emergency response unit deployed to the park. Volunteers secured the perimeter while officers conducted a systematic search.

“They utilize a grid search to cover as much area as quickly as possible without potentially missing a spot where the child might be,” Mack said.

To help in the hunt, Kingston police deploy a drone unit that gives them eyes in the sky as well as on the ground.

The drone can cover the search grid quickly and efficiently, Sgt. Darren Keuhl says. The drone’s camera also has a tremendous zoom range and can detect heat signatures.

“If they do actually see colour or movement or a person or thermal, then they can direct that back to the ground to the search masters, who will then put resources to that location,” Keuhl says.

Mack says that after the exercise, the team will examine the response, what went well and what can be improved.

“We potentially learn from any deficiencies or problems we have during the training scenario and we correct those,” Mack says.

Although not used in this drill, Kingston police also have a K-9 unit they can call upon, along with helicopter support from the Ontario Provincial Police.