RIDGE, Md. – On Monday, July 19th, Ridge VFD used its monthly drill night to brush up on water rescue operations using Boat 4.  Boat-based rescue operations are a serious business, as they often take place in poor sea state and in the dark.  Fine handling skills, navigational abilities, and close team coordination are all essential to safe and effective rescues.

Rescue boat operations in breaking seas, strong currents, and rough shorelines are a challenge even to experienced and well-trained boat crews.  Add the urgency of response to reach persons or vessels in distress, plus the fine handling skills required to bring the rescue boat safely alongside persons in the water, and it should be clear that traditional recreational boating experience is insufficient qualification to operate a rescue craft during emergencies.  This is why we train our responders in these specific skills.

During our drill, we practiced things such as: locating a victim in the water, recovering victims from the water and from another vessel, close quarter boat handling skills, high- and low-speed maneuvers, and rescue planning and methodology.  The objective of this training was to enhance the safety of our firefighters during water rescue incidents by increasing their knowledge of the hazards of water rescue and the techniques and equipment needed to manage those hazards during the rescue.

Water rescue incidents can happen in any jurisdiction.  These are infrequent but extremely high-risk incidents.  Ridge VFD Boat 4 responds to any water rescue call in the surrounding Southern Maryland region (and occasionally over to Virginia); including the Chesapeake Bay, Potomac and Patuxent Rivers, and all connecting rivers, creeks, and bodies of water.  However, due the infrequent nature of these calls, water rescue techniques can become a use-or-lose skillset.  That’s why training our personnel to handle water rescues is vital.  The hazardous nature of these incidents can place firefighters at extreme risk, with rescuers often becoming victims themselves, further complicating the incident.

Aside from a few sea nettle stings, the training was a success.  Lessons learned were collected and will be used to fine-tune our rescue techniques.