It’s important that the water rescue techs at South Gulf Fire Rescue are prepared to ask in atypical conditions. So, they filed out onto the dock at dusk, launched the equipment for their exercise, and practiced well past sunset, training to perform in low light conditions.
“We had what we call a stage 1 night rescue training where we took technicians and operators onto the bay and they were instructed on outfitting the rescue water craft with proper lighting and maneuvering techniques in low light, and then complete darkness,” said Rob Biancari, the lead water rescue tech at SGFR. “We got off the water at about 10 or so.”
South Gulf Fire Rescue was joined by two employees from the Gulf County Sheriff’s Office for the training, which Biancari said helps the techs prepare and practise for times when they will need to respond during low light conditions.
Water rescues are not uncommon in the Cape San Blas and Indian Pass areas. And Biancari said that this summer, SGFR had been called to respond to multiple distressed swimmers at dusk.
“We’ve had a couple that have come in at dusk on the Bay side,” he said. “It’s not a regular occurrence, but it’s just one more piece of training that gives us a broader scope of what we can accomplish.”
During peak seasons, boat rescue techs practice weekly to ensure they are prepared to help when they are called.
Just a few days earlier, the team had been huddled around a whiteboard in Fire Station 2, going over another exercise, this time dealing with rougher than normal surf conditions.
The session lasted about 30 minutes, giving the volunteers time to ask questions and go over any concerns before hitting the water.
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 who was being pulled out by currents.
Then, as a thunderstorm approached, 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.
“Training is everything in doing anything dangerous,” said Biancari. “So being prepared for whatever’s possible is one of the things, not just our fire department, but every fire department attempts to accomplish for its people.”