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View Poll Results: Should bunker gear be worn in water?

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  • No, no exceptions.

    21 72.41%
  • Yes, if the water is static.

    1 3.45%
  • Yes, if there is no chance of filling your boots.

    5 17.24%
  • Yes, but only for an extrication.

    0 0%
  • Yes, there is no hazard.

    0 0%
  • Undecided

    3 10.34%
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  1. #1
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    Default Water rescue vs. extrication???

    We are in the process of developing a rescue team at my dept. and have a question that is very debatable on water rescue vs. extrication.

    When dealing with a vehicle extrication in water is it considered a water rescue or an extrication and do you wear bunker gear? Are there any exceptions?


  2. #2
    55 Years & Still Rolling hwoods's Avatar
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    Thumbs up Yes.... Or No..... Maybe.........

    Over the past several years I've been on a few Auto Accidents where a vehicle ended up in the Water. Normally, our Dispatch Center will have enough info on the call to dispatch it as what the caller reports it to be. A "Car in the Water" will get a Water Rescue Assignment, which is not a problem since the normal Auto Accident response of a Heavy Rescue, Engine, and Ambulance is also part of a Water Rescue Response. Conditions on the scene will dictate how we operate from there on. No Fire PPE in the Water, but Lifejackets for everyone in the Water or within 50 feet of Water. Personnel IN the Water are in Exposure or Dive Suits..........
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  3. #3
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    Wow. Good question. I admit to never having had this issue before.

    Are we talking fully submerged? Like you would need scuba? If so, it's probably not very realistic to use PPE. I could be wrong, though???

    If you don't need scuba, then I would imagine you can wear your PPE and probably should. Sharp things above water are hard enough to see.

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    Forum Member nmfire's Avatar
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    As with most things, conditions dictate actions. If the car is in still water with a depth below my waist, turnout gear shouldn't be an issue and is worth the annoyance for the protection. As the Chief pointed out, the sharp things are still there even if your in water. A lifejacket may or may not be practical. If I need to get myself lower in the water than the jacket will allow me (within reason), then oh well its coming off. A car submerged in shallow water is still a rescue I would attempt without a dive team or SCUBA gear. So even things like PFD's are going to be situation dependent.

    If the water is moving or deeper than that, I think it starts becoming more dangerous to have turnout gear on. My shoes or workboots and extrication gloves will have to do and I'll take that risk given the fact that someone is going to drown if I don't. It is still an extrication with the same hazards plus the hazards of swift water.

    So getting back to your question... Is it a water rescue or is it an extrication. The answer is yes.
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    We've had a few of these and thankfully they've been easy to handle. Most end up with personnel entering the water (no gear) in exposure suits or "Mustangs" work suits, and the victim is easily removed. The only other I've been involved with was a car into a quarry 75' from the roadway through the ice into 40 plus feet of water. No chance of our making a viable rescue. Some how rappelling 75' onto the ice for a vehicle that was not visible below the surface in sub 20 degree weather didn't seem to fit the risk/reward model at the time.

    How many of us have the resources readily deployed to actually conduct a successful extrication from a submerged vehicle? Above removing glass, seatbelts and opening doors? I know we'd make every attempt and the whole "not dead until your warm, dry and dead", but realistically?

  6. #6
    Forum Member nmfire's Avatar
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    Well it depends on when the accident happened. If its a 911 call of a car that just skid off into a lake or river, than there is a living victim in that car waiting for rescue. Its still a car, even if its underwater. Glass punches, seatbelt cutters, and hurst tools will still work even when wet.

    A quick smash-and-grab shouldn't be too complicated. Bust the window if needed, open the door, cut the seatbelt, and get out. There is absolutely no reason * I * would wait for a dive team to do that in relatively still water and less than 10-20ft deep. I know it is within my ability and I'd go for it and thats something everyone needs to evaluate and decide appropriately.

    Also, lets think outside the box here. The car is in the water, its bangged up requiring extrication (not a smash-and-grab) and its too deep to run hurst tools without SCUBA gear. Dive rescue is 20 minutes away. Ok, screw the water, take the winch cable or some chains and drag the car out of the water. It doesn't need to be pretty. Hook it to anything. If you can't easily hook it to the frame or drivetrain, hook it around the damn C-Pillars and be done with it. Drowning problem solved, now its just an extrication and the dive team is still 10 minutes away.
    Even the burger-flippers at McDonald's probably have some McWackers.

  7. #7
    Back In Black ChiefKN's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nmfire View Post
    Also, lets think outside the box here. The car is in the water, its bangged up requiring extrication (not a smash-and-grab) and its too deep to run hurst tools without SCUBA gear. Dive rescue is 20 minutes away. Ok, screw the water, take the winch cable or some chains and drag the car out of the water. It doesn't need to be pretty. Hook it to anything. If you can't easily hook it to the frame or drivetrain, hook it around the damn C-Pillars and be done with it. Drowning problem solved, now its just an extrication and the dive team is still 10 minutes away.
    I can get a tow truck/rescue truck with a winch a lot quicker then an effective dive team and would resort to this as probably my first option.
    I am now a past chief and the views, opinions, and comments are mine and mine alone. I do not speak for any department or in any official capacity. Although, they would be smart to listen to me.

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    Quote Originally Posted by nmfire View Post
    There is absolutely no reason * I * would wait for a dive team to do that in relatively still water and less than 10-20ft deep. I know it is within my ability and I'd go for it and thats something everyone needs to evaluate and decide appropriately.
    I'm not saying you're wrong at all, but how would you effect a jaws job in 10-20 feet of water? What do you use for air? How do you keep from moving around? Do you carry dive masks? Just visibility under water alone will be an issue. I know we couldn't pull this off today. We'd try, but it certainly hasn't been thought out, planned for and equipped for. Of course we too have too wait for a recovery team, as no dive team exists within range of life saving capability unless the State Police Team is training nearby.

    I like the thought of yanking the vehicle if at all possible. It seems like a much better shot in most cases than anything more than glass, doors and seatbelts.

  9. #9
    Forum Member nmfire's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RFDACM02 View Post
    I'm not saying you're wrong at all, but how would you effect a jaws job in 10-20 feet of water? What do you use for air? How do you keep from moving around? Do you carry dive masks? Just visibility under water alone will be an issue. I know we couldn't pull this off today. We'd try, but it certainly hasn't been thought out, planned for and equipped for. Of course we too have too wait for a recovery team, as no dive team exists within range of life saving capability unless the State Police Team is training nearby.

    I like the thought of yanking the vehicle if at all possible. It seems like a much better shot in most cases than anything more than glass, doors and seatbelts.
    Thats why I'm only talking about a smash-and-grab. If it's going to need heavy iron to extricate, then there is no way its going to happen if I can't stand with my head above water. I don't think anyone could. Hence my suggestion of dragging it out of the water

    I'm hesitant to even ask this in fear of someone getting all worked up over it. But has anyone in a moment of desperation ever used their SCBA for a shallow underwater emergency? I can't say that thought wouldn't cross my mind if some little kid is about to drown.
    Last edited by nmfire; 11-16-2009 at 04:50 PM.
    Even the burger-flippers at McDonald's probably have some McWackers.

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    Quote Originally Posted by nmfire View Post
    Thats why I'm only talking about a smash-and-grab. If it's going to need heavy iron to extricate, then there is no way its going to happen if I can't stand with my head above water. I don't think anyone could. Hence my suggestion of dragging it out of the water

    I'm hesitant to even ask this in fear of someone getting all worked up over it. But has anyone in a moment of desperation ever used their SCBA for a shallow underwater emergency? I can't say that thought wouldn't cross my mind if some little kid is about to drown.
    IIRC there was an article way back (late 80's?) about a FD trying Scott SCBA in a swimming pool and finding they were OK up to 6 feet? Maybe more? Thing is you'd likely need a weight belt to offset the added buoyancy?

    Interesting issue. We had a drowning where by the time we arrived the victim was no longer visible from shore (ocean). Crews on land and boat looked for any sign, within a fairly small area of last scene sighting. We have no dive team and one was called. Onlookers wondered why we had no face masks to look into the water from the boat. Sure would have made visibility better, but then what if the victim is found and us with no fins, tanks, etc. One step leads to the next being under equipped or trained. Sadly the victim was found over an hour later by a private diver who we called in as the SP dive team was still over an hour out. This with the USCG, Marine Patrol and local PD all on scene. Even had a USCG Gulfstream on location just before he was found. A very difficult situation in a very public place. Interesting learning experience too for those not familiar with USCG rules and doctrine. If you have expectations of these folks, but haven't discussed them with them since 9/11 you'd better set up a meeting soon.

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    if it's a pin underwater, I'd agree you'd have to winch the car out before trying to cut.

    If its anything underwater and the person can't be extricated by popping a window and trying to pull them out through the window/door, it sounds like bad news for the victim. Even if we could cut, they'll probably be dead by the time they could be cut out. Does anyone have any capability of providing life support to a victim trapped with their head below water?

    If its a car in a foot or two of still water, the best bet would probably be to try and cut them out while in turnout gear. Only because in that situation I'd say the risk of injury from extrication outweighs the risk from the water.
    Last edited by nameless; 11-16-2009 at 08:02 PM.

  12. #12
    Forum Member nmfire's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RFDACM02 View Post
    Interesting learning experience too for those not familiar with USCG rules and doctrine. If you have expectations of these folks, but haven't discussed them with them since 9/11 you'd better set up a meeting soon.
    Fortunately we do not have a coastline in our district. Anything would be lakes and a river.
    Even the burger-flippers at McDonald's probably have some McWackers.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by nmfire View Post
    Fortunately we do not have a coastline in our district. Anything would be lakes and a river.
    I'm not knocking them, but their mission changed significantly and many of us didn't realize just how much.

    I'm with Nameless on this, any heavy extrication under the surface is not going to favor the victim. This is certainly one of those "low frequency" specialties that we cannot undertake for fear of pushing the core mission even further out of our minds and training.

  14. #14
    55 Years & Still Rolling hwoods's Avatar
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    Post Well................

    Quote Originally Posted by RFDACM02 View Post
    We've had a few of these and thankfully they've been easy to handle. Most end up with personnel entering the water (no gear) in exposure suits or "Mustangs" work suits, and the victim is easily removed.

    How many of us have the resources readily deployed to actually conduct a successful extrication from a submerged vehicle? Above removing glass, seatbelts and opening doors? I know we'd make every attempt and the whole "not dead until your warm, dry and dead", but realistically?

    We ran a call at 01:30 on Dec. 8, 2005 for an overturned Auto. Heavy Rescue and a BLS Ambulance, total crew 7. As we arrived, Dispatch was advising us that a subsequent caller said the Car was off the Road. As we soon found out, it was. It was also on it's top in a Temporary Sediment pond for a shopping Mall construction Project. All we could see was 4 wheels sticking up in the air from the Ice Covered Pond. 2 of us donned "Gumby" Suits and went in to try to remove the Driver, who could be heard screaming in the car. After a bit of work with a Halligan Bar, we got the door open enough to pull the Driver out, and turned him over to the Just arriving Paramedics. (The Assignment had been upgraded to a Water Rescue) A Few Points:

    The Crash was one of those things that couldn't happen Twice, since the Pond only existed for a period of about 5 months, then it was gone, filled back in as it was no longer needed.

    In order to stabilze the Car, we hooked a Winch line onto the underframe. A little later, a Winch line from another Rescue was hooked to the Car, then the Car was pulled from the Water and searched again for any other Victims.
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    jerimiah318...

    To answer your questions, there are exceptions to every rule. The situation and the weather will dictate what should be worn. I think you are looking for a "standard" for response to a water rescue. A "standard" response should be prepared to rescue someone from the water regardless if they are in a vehicle or not. With that said...then the proper PPE would be a Gumby suit or some sort of dive type suit.

    You can play the what if game all day and not get 2 answers the same. The best policy would be to make a "standard" and then be ready to modify it with what information you have from dispatch, the weather, location, etc.
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    Quote Originally Posted by hwoods View Post
    We ran a call at 01:30 on Dec. 8, 2005 for an overturned Auto. Heavy Rescue and a BLS Ambulance, total crew 7. As we arrived, Dispatch was advising us that a subsequent caller said the Car was off the Road. As we soon found out, it was. It was also on it's top in a Temporary Sediment pond for a shopping Mall construction Project. All we could see was 4 wheels sticking up in the air from the Ice Covered Pond. 2 of us donned "Gumby" Suits and went in to try to remove the Driver, who could be heard screaming in the car. After a bit of work with a Halligan Bar, we got the door open enough to pull the Driver out, and turned him over to the Just arriving Paramedics. (The Assignment had been upgraded to a Water Rescue) A Few Points:

    The Crash was one of those things that couldn't happen Twice, since the Pond only existed for a period of about 5 months, then it was gone, filled back in as it was no longer needed.

    In order to stabilze the Car, we hooked a Winch line onto the underframe. A little later, a Winch line from another Rescue was hooked to the Car, then the Car was pulled from the Water and searched again for any other Victims.
    Nice job. We've had a few cases where the car has not been completely submerged that were successful;, though none were overturned. I know our people would give it 110% but I'd certainly hope for some luck in getting the right info from dispatch early, and decent water access. Most of the water issues in our coverage area seem to have poor access (high banks, rocky, deep water in close to the shore, etc).

  17. #17
    Forum Member DennisTheMenace's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nmfire View Post
    Well it depends on when the accident happened. If its a 911 call of a car that just skid off into a lake or river, than there is a living victim in that car waiting for rescue. Its still a car, even if its underwater. Glass punches, seatbelt cutters, and hurst tools will still work even when wet.

    A quick smash-and-grab shouldn't be too complicated. Bust the window if needed, open the door, cut the seatbelt, and get out. There is absolutely no reason * I * would wait for a dive team to do that in relatively still water and less than 10-20ft deep. I know it is within my ability and I'd go for it and thats something everyone needs to evaluate and decide appropriately.

    Also, lets think outside the box here. The car is in the water, its bangged up requiring extrication (not a smash-and-grab) and its too deep to run hurst tools without SCUBA gear. Dive rescue is 20 minutes away. Ok, screw the water, take the winch cable or some chains and drag the car out of the water. It doesn't need to be pretty. Hook it to anything. If you can't easily hook it to the frame or drivetrain, hook it around the damn C-Pillars and be done with it. Drowning problem solved, now its just an extrication and the dive team is still 10 minutes away.
    10-20 feet deep is deeper than you think in these types of situations.
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    Depending on the information the dispatcher gets during the call, it usually comes in as a water rescue and then we use diving gear.

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    I would think that it depends on the situation, but also the situation depends on your involvement.

    With my level of aquatic experience, I may not even be involved past the edge of the bank.

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    Quote Originally Posted by nmfire View Post
    Well it depends on when the accident happened. If its a 911 call of a car that just skid off into a lake or river, than there is a living victim in that car waiting for rescue. Its still a car, even if its underwater. Glass punches, seatbelt cutters, and hurst tools will still work even when wet.

    A quick smash-and-grab shouldn't be too complicated. Bust the window if needed, open the door, cut the seatbelt, and get out. There is absolutely no reason * I * would wait for a dive team to do that in relatively still water and less than 10-20ft deep. I know it is within my ability and I'd go for it and thats something everyone needs to evaluate and decide appropriately.

    Also, lets think outside the box here. The car is in the water, its bangged up requiring extrication (not a smash-and-grab) and its too deep to run hurst tools without SCUBA gear. Dive rescue is 20 minutes away. Ok, screw the water, take the winch cable or some chains and drag the car out of the water. It doesn't need to be pretty. Hook it to anything. If you can't easily hook it to the frame or drivetrain, hook it around the damn C-Pillars and be done with it. Drowning problem solved, now its just an extrication and the dive team is still 10 minutes away.
    10 to 20 feet is pretty deep. Getting down 10 feet can be done easily, 20 feet not so easy. And around here, the water is pretty cold and dark. Submerged in 20 feet of water it is highly unlikely you would even be able to find the car. It would be difficult in 10 feet of water. Our tools have 50 feet hoses on them. Since to get submerged you would either have to drive off a bridge or be several feet off shore the possibility of getting the hydraulics to the care is next to impossible.

    If the car is submerged with an entrapped victim then the vehicle would have to be pulled form the water first. To assist the occupants I would recommend taking an SCBA to them. Our ISI air packs will work in 10 feet of water.

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