The issue of water rescue, a subject that gave rise to the
resignation in March both the chief and assistant chief of the South
Gulf County Volunteer Fire Department, has given rise to a buoyant prospect of
better training for safety personnel.
At Tuesday morning’s county commission meeting, Matt Herring,
the head of county emergency management, said that with the promotion
of South Gulf County Fire Chief Mike Barrett, the department set about to
beef up its water rescue efforts.
“What we found is no one at South Gulf at the time was certified
to perform water rescue,” Herring said.
After examining several possible nationally recognized
training programs, the decision was made to go with k38, a program in California,
and to send Rob Biancheri, a Firefighter 1 with the department, to take the
water rescue specialist course in May in Morro Bay, California, a town on the Pacific coast about halfway between Monterey and Los Angeles.
“This guy was the best person for the job,” said Herring.
Biancheri then addressed the commissioners, and spoke of the
coastline’s fast-moving currents, and 52-degree temperatures, during his training
at Morro Bay Harbor.
He said he completed more than 30 hours of pre-course online
modules, and an additional 40 hours as an adjunct instructor of Marines from
Camp Pendleton. Biancheri said that since 1996 the Marine Corps has used k38 as
its exclusive trainers.
“It’s the best watercraft training certification in the
world,” he said, adding that Gulf is the first county in Florida with a k38 instructor
to handle its training of water rescue personnel.
“We will now move swiftly to certify others,” Biancheri
said. “I commit to you today that with God’s help I’ll be part of the change
Herring said classes under Biancheri’s instruction are now
being slated to train other personnel in firefighting and law enforcement.
County Commissioner Phillip McCroan said the South Gulf
County department gets the greatest number of water rescue calls from anywhere
in the county.
It’s not an enviable responsibility,” he said.
He noted that Biancheri did the training on his own time, as
a volunteer. “He’s not getting paid,” McCroan said. “I commend him and Matt Herring
and Mike Barrett.”