Pittsburgh poised to spend nearly $1M on water safety training, new rescue boat
Pittsburgh is poised to spend nearly $1 million on a new River Rescue boat and water safety training for firefighters, paramedics and police officers who staff River Rescue crafts and the city fire boat.
City Council on Wednesday gave preliminary approval for a three-year, $360,000 contract with Lexington, Ky.-based National Association of State Boating Law Administrators to provide training for about 90 city employees. A final vote is scheduled for Tuesday. The training organization approved by the Coast Guard.
Public Safety Director Wendell Hissrich said the city ordered a new River Rescue boat that will cost about $550,000. It will replace one of two aging boats docked at the North Side’s River Rescue facility, officials said. The boat is expected to be ready by September.
“It has been a priority of mine since I’ve been here to modernize both River Rescue and firefighting capabilities upon the three rivers,” Hissrich said, noting that Pittsburgh is the second busiest inland port in the United States.
Pittsburgh in 2017 bought its first fire boat since 1973 and christened it the Sophie Masloff after a former mayor. The same company that built the Masloff — Lake Assault Boats of Superior, Wis. — is building the River Rescue craft.
“Our two boats are in the area of 15 years old and 18 years old, so they’re due to be replaced,” said Jon Atkinson, a paramedic and River Rescue diver.
River Rescue operates year round to patrol rivers and perform rescue operations and is often accompanied by the fire boat as a safety precaution, Hissrich said. He said the fire boat is available year round so long as rivers do not ice over.
It is currently out of the water for maintenance.
Fire Chief Darryl Jones said the city must train public safety employees who serve on the boats and others to fill gaps caused by vacations, retirements and assignment transfers.
Employees will be required to attend a week-long River Rescue training in class and on the boats. Training for the fire boat lasts three days.
“The majority is on the water,” said Tony Darkowski, Emergency Medical Services rescue division chief. “They try to give you as much time as possible on the water actually doing docking, boating, man overboar — the whole works.”
Bob Bauder is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Bob at 412-765-2312, [email protected] or via Twitter .