Rescue crews put skills to test in icy Youghiogheny River
Crews from across Allegheny County put their rescue skills to the test in frigid Youghiogheny River waters on Saturday.
With temperatures in McKeesport in the low 20s, the county's Swiftwater/Flood Response Team challenged members to participate in a series of drills, gauging their ability to operate crafts and equipment while battling the cold.
“Originally, this exercise was intended to be an ice rescue drill,” Allegheny County Chief of Emergency Services Alvin Henderson said. “With there being no ice on the Yough, we turned it into a cold weather water rescue. It gives our crews a different experience of getting into cold water.”
Crews from McKeesport Fire Department, Glassport Citizens Hose Co. No. 1, Elizabeth Volunteer Fire Co., Blawnox VFC, Eureka VFC, Crescent Township Volunteer Fire Department, NorthWest EMS and Pittsburgh EMS gathered along Water Street at a stage that overlooks the river.
“This is an ideal location for training,” said McKeesport Fire Department Deputy Chief Chuck Margliotti, a deputy coordinator for the county team. “It gives us a nice platform to work from and observe, and it's a safe place to train.”
In jet skis and inflatable boats, they took turns performing mock rescues while navigating river courses with simulated debris. They threw lines from the shore to rescue peers and practiced self-saves they could use in the field.
“It's important for us to maintain our skills in operating this equipment and utilizing our gear,” Henderson said. “Most of the gear is designed to keep the water off, but it's not really designed for warmth. They have to dress differently.”
Dr. Micha Campbell, medical director of the county's Hazardous Materials Medical Response Team, observed the drill with attention to the crews' well-being. The Salvation Army was on scene to provide refreshments and keep crews warm.
“Our primary focus is the health and safety of the responders,” Campbell said, noting that hypothermia is a major concern in cold water rescues. “We're familiar with the rescue environment and the demands that are put on the rescuers.”
Response team coordinator George McBriar, chief of Blawnox VFC, said the crews' extensive training is geared toward safety and efficiency.
“It's rare that we can plan a drill of this size for people from all over the county to attend,” McBriar said. “But it's a drill that reinforces everybody doing everything the same way. It doesn't matter which rescue team you're on. You're all training the same way.”
If county crews are called to assist anywhere in Pennsylvania or out of state, they know how to work with other emergency personnel to remain safe during rescue operations, McBriar explained.
Jennifer R. Vertullo is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1956, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
- White Oak man ordered to pay fine in gambling ring case
- Steel Valley considers athletics policy on coaching positions
- Suspect in McKeesport home invasion arrested in Toledo
- PHEAA, FAFSA scams threaten students, families
- Steel Valley board contemplates raising lunch prices
- Glassport Scout completes Eagle Project
- Police blotter
- Judge refuses to reduce bail for McKeesport robbery suspect
- West Mifflin woman held for court, accused of leaving baby unattended
- Century Town Homes residents, Clairton officials frustrated
- Elizabeth’s Riverfest is a family oriented event