It can be easy to underestimate the amount of energy it takes to swim against the Gulf of Mexico’s currents and waves.
There are no lifeguards protecting Gulf County waters, but for stranded or exhausted swimmers who cannot make it back to shore, South Gulf Fire Rescue Volunteer Fire Department’s boat rescue techs and beach support teams can provide assistance.
Water rescues are not uncommon in the Cape San Blas and Indian Pass areas. On Sunday, the water rescue team at the South Gulf, along with a beach support team, brought in two swimmers who could not make it back to the shore on their own.
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“It is important that we train for scenarios like that,” said Barrett. “We train to save lives – ours and yours.”
During peak seasons, boat rescue techs practice weekly to ensure they are prepared to help when they are called.
Sometimes this looks like practicing shore exercises or learning to use new pieces of equipment. Last Saturday, it involved waking up early to gather at Fire Station one and head out to the beach as a team.
Three trucks, two beach vehicles, a jet ski and other equipment was all neatly arranged on the Gulf Side of Salinas Park. The group, some in wetsuits, others in athletic wear, gathered to discuss their plan for the day.
The boat techs would take the jet ski, equipped with proper floats and signals, out into the water. Some volunteers would act as distressed swimmers, donning life jackets and sitting in the chilly water so that boat techs could practice rescuing them. Then, the rescuers would bring the swimmers back to the shore, where the beach support team would use stretchers and floats to bring them safely to the sand.
There were just under 10 volunteers present when all was said and done.
“Thanks for everybody showing up today. Thanks for your hard work,” said Barrett to those assembled. “Training is what makes it happen.”
The techs and beach team spent a little over an hour practicing different rescue techniques and scenarios, aiming the jet ski so a rescuer could easily jump off to aid an exhausted swimmer.
Then, as the heat of the day began to set in, the crew loaded up the equipment, clearly communicating where everything would be going so that the volunteers knew where it was when it was needed.