Firefighters of Pinellas Suncoast Fire & Rescue have been training for response to surface water emergencies with instruction by three trained staff members. During training exercises, personnel were exposed to multiple scenarios significant for the district which has a vast area of waterfront properties, a large number of swimming pools, and many small ponds and water retention areas.
In cooperation with Largo’s Southwest Recreation Center, the instructors from Pinellas Suncoast used a program developed by the Pinellas County Fire Training Officers to accomplish the department’s mission of protecting lives and property while keeping the staff safe when entering the water. All county rescue departments have adopted the Association’s “Standard Operating Procedure” and the accompanying training program.
Three staff members of Pinellas Suncoast, District Chief Dennis Furnell, District Chief John Mortellite and Lt. Jeremy Sidlauskas, were trained by the Training Officers; and along with a rescue diver in scuba gear, FF/EMT James Fehl, presented the program that included 4 hours of classroom and 4 hours of practical water experience. In one scenario, rescuers dove into 10 feet of water to search a “mockup” of a submerged vehicle to rescue a victim trapped inside. In another, rescuers were to suddenly fall into water in gear with 60 lbs. of heavy equipment treading water until rescued. The practical component also included a 50-meter swim followed by a 5-minute period of treading water. FF/Paramedic Brooke Waring, trained for water rescue while in the U.S. Navy, showed personnel techniques to free themselves from the grasp of a panicked victim. Crews also practiced the use of protective flotation and rescue equipment and the removal of injured victims from the water while protecting their neck after injuries.
Rescue crews will continue training in an advanced 4-hour program on handling and resuscitating pediatric drowning victims. This, unfortunately, is a common response in our county resulting in a fatal outcome.
Check out the "MEDIA GALLERY" for more Water Rescue Training photos.