Emergency personnel tackle ice training


By Karen Hinkley
The Grand Gorge Fire Department hosted a surface ice rescue drill on Saturday and Sunday with training provided by Team Lifeguard Systems Inc. of Shokan.

Almost 40 volunteer firefighters and EMS participated in the two-day weekend training session from Grand Gorge, Roxbury, Margaretville, Stamford and Halcottsville.

The training began with classroom “basic” instruction for both the technician and the operator level at the Grand Gorge Fire House by instructors from Team Lifeguard Systems. This organization was founded in 1960 by Walt “Butch” Hendrick and since then has devoted many hours teaching diving, rescue, recovery and diver safety to thousands of fire, police, EMS, military, and sport divers. By the 1980s Lifeguard Systems had grown with more trainers and a larger teaching area, expanding in, and to, include many countries. Andrea Zaferes joined the team in 1987 and became the second lead trainer, author, and program creator.

The right stuff
Scott Sammons also offered his expertise to the local firefighters during this training. With training, firefighters can be prepared with the right equipment, procedures, mutual aid communications, and contingency plans. This can make the difference between life and death on the part of both victim and rescuer.

The instruction on Saturday continued in the bay area of the firehouse as each firefighter/EMS participated and practiced the drills over and over that are needed to effectively perform a surface ice rescue. Some of the tools used were the personal flotation suit, ice rescue pole, floats, slings, carabineers, harnesses, sleds and throw bags.

Second day action
The next day started in the firehouse bay again reviewing training videos and a getting ready for the actual surface ice rescue drill. All departments headed to the water located near Becker’s Tire along Route 30. The equipment was readied and each “technician level” trainer prepared to enter the icy area after holes were cut by the trainers in the thick ice.

Volunteer firefighters /EMS assumed positions of chief tender, tender, rope crew, rescuer and victim.

EMS from Grand Gorge and Stamford were on hand to monitor each trainer’s vitals throughout the day. All day long those being trained rotated positions as they practiced the lessons learned and “rescued” victim after victim from the holes in the ice.

Back at the firehouse
After the drill, everyone returned to the firehouse and spent time cleaning and restocking equipment for the next drill or actual rescue. The event culminated with a written test and certificate presentation by Team Lifeguard trainers.

Special recognition was given to the Fly Team members, First Assistant Chief Wink Hinkley for his “take charge” responsibilities of the day’s training, and Chief DJ Speenburgh for his efforts to organize this training for the participating fire departments.