Valley's first responders get certified for ice rescues
Although battling extreme temperatures is part of a firefighter's job description, most don't imagine those temperatures to pose a hypothermic threat.
Such was the case, however, for the Armstrong County 340 Task Force, which conducted ice rescue drills on Sunday in the frigid waters of Allegheny Township's Northmoreland Park.
With freezing temperatures and heavy snowfall through most of the morning, the task force had to break a hole in the ice to begin its eight-hour training session. Each of the 40 or so team members spent about five minutes in the water demonstrating to Pennsylvania Region 13 Task Force instructors their ability to conduct ice water rescues.
Among the Region 13 Task Force's primary directives is to establish communication systems and response methods that work among 13 counties.
The ice rescue training session represents one of four drills emergency responders must complete to be state-certified swift water emergency technicians. About half of the members must complete some combination of the other three drills to earn their Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission certification. But after Sunday, all task force members are properly trained and equipped to respond to ice water emergency situations, said Dan Felack, Task Force 340 deputy chief.
“We want people to know that they have the trained resources available,” he said. “The viability for people in freezing water is 30 to 60 minutes, so the window is small. We don't want regular residents trying to help each other out and end up with three or four bodies in the water. They need to call us.”
The 340 Task Force — which includes Leechburg Volunteer Fire Department, Vandergrift Fire Department No. 1, Markle Volunteer Fire Department of Allegheny Township and Lower Kiski Emergency Services — completed the drills alongside Eureka Fire Rescue and EMS of Tarentum.
During the training session, emergency responders must first demonstrate their ability to pull themselves out of the water. They're then asked to rescue another person in the water from above the surface level in what is known as a “reach method.” Finally, they re-enter the water for a “direct contact” rescue of the victim.
“Getting in the water is a last resort,” Felack said. “But sometimes it's necessary, and our guys are able to do it.”
In addition to helmets, life vests and harnesses, each team member was provided a dry suit for insulation in the frigid water. Ken Fouse, 57, of Vandergrift Fire Department No. 1 said the suits are “life savers” — if they're working properly.
“I didn't know I had a leak in mine until I jumped in,” he said. “It was immediately obvious that it was there. It was a bit of a shock, but it wasn't really bad until I had to get out.”
Fouse overcame the equipment malfunction to pass the two-day training session. Sunday's drills were preceded by instruction on Saturday at the Valley High School pool, where crews can “learn in a controlled atmosphere before the crews are exposed to the harsh conditions outside,” according to Region 13 Task Force instructor Tom Buchan.
Buchan, who is a public safety instructor at Bucks County Community College, said interagency cooperation is growing more prevalent each year in emergency management. Overseeing training sessions, he said, ensures that different crews can work together to make a rescue at a moment's notice.
“When you get in a live situation, you're going to want the guys you might have to work with speaking the same language,” he said. “You don't have time to sit around and talk in these types of situations, or it's too late.”
Braden Ashe is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Armstrong inmate escapee charged with murdering family matriarch
- Captured Armstrong jail escapee Crissman’s criminal history
- New Kensington-Arnold committee discusses ways to combat bullying
- Mt. St. Peter draws crowds with 34th annual Festa Italiana in New Kensington
- ATI reveals details of contract offer to steelworkers union
- Northbound Rt. 28 ramp to 31st Street Bridge closed tonight
- Animal Protectors of Allegheny Valley offers free services at clinic
- USW rallies in support of ATI, other steel companies’ employees
- Avonmore mayor to resign after being charged with theft
- South Butler superintendent heads home for Mohawk job
- Zelienople development to be inclusive of those with autism