A good idea...but perhaps a bit too late, considering the 9 deaths from drowning in that area recently
Firefighters cross train in water rescues
Water-rescue methods taught to Escambia Fire-Rescue
Imagining Lt. Steve Bode floating weightlessly in the water seems impossible. The bulky, veteran firefighter looks like he can carry a refrigerator - with one hand.
But early Thursday, the 40- year-old public servant cut swiftly across the Olympic-size pool of Portofino Condominiums on Pensacola Beach.
Bode, like his fellow firefighters, are built and trained to carry heavy hoses, oxygen bottles and even adults trapped in burning homes.
But at Pensacola Beach - where 23 people have drowned since 2001 - duties are being re-evaluated. Firefighters, the first to respond to the miles of unguarded beaches on Santa Rosa Island, regularly find themselves in the Gulf undertaking rescues of swimmers in trouble.
This week, 12 firefighters from Escambia County Fire-Rescue at Pensacola Beach are undergoing 40 hours of water-rescue training.
"It's a standardized training that will provide them with a good base of knowledge for what they encounter in the Gulf on a fairly routine basis," said Battalion Chief Patrick Grace. "This is invaluable training."
The training exercise comes as beach safety becomes a critical issue for public safety officials at Santa Rosa Island. The latest victim, David Victor Dotson, 66, of Milton died Monday.
"The training will give safety measure for firefighters in response to many of these potential drownings because of a lack of lifeguards," said Pat McGlamery, Boca Raton Ocean Rescue lieutenant and instructor for the training session.
His worry also is to "keep the guys safe." Firefighters untrained in open-water rescue easily can put themselves in a deadly situation.
"For our own good, we need to know how to swim," said Bode. "A lot of people want to be heroes. They'll jump in the Gulf, try to do a save and then they'll need rescuing."
McGlamery also is director of public education for the southeast region of the U.S. Lifesaving Association. The Lifesaving Association released a report with 35 recommendations to improve public safety at Pensacola Beach. It included a recommendation that public safety employees be trained to association standards.
"What they didn't have was a standard operating procedure for aquatic rescue," he said.
The City of Boca Raton, the Lifesaving Association and Escambia County paid for the training.
At this week's training exercise, firefighters were acquainted with aquatic lifesaving equipment, performed water rescues, jumped off the Pensacola Beach Gulf Pier and spent hours of classroom time learning about rip currents and the basics of how water moves.
"To be honest, prior to this I didn't know a whole lot about how the Gulf worked," said firefighter Jeff Howard, 22. "(The training) has also given me more stamina and endurance."
On Thursday, firefighters were given a swimming test - 500 meters in less than 10 minutes.
For the past month, they have been swimming daily under the direction of swimming coach
Nick Gibson, who was paid by the Santa Rosa Island Authority.
"They were fairly prepared, but they weren't in the best shape to do aquatic rescue," said McGlamery.
After their training finishes today , the group will apply for Aquatic Response Rescue Team certification. All future firefighters at the station also will receive open-water rescue training.
McGlamery said continued training is important, especially here.
"This is known as the drowning capital of the United States."
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06-13-2003, 12:21 PM #1
Excambia County--Fire Department Cross Trains in Water Rescue09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
IACOJ Minister of Southern Comfort
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The comments, opinions, and positions expressed here are mine. They are expressed respectfully, in the spirit of safety and progress. They do not reflect the opinions or positions of my employer or my department.
03-18-2008, 08:45 PM #2
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if you are out there email me.
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