Pierce County Metro Dive Team members Alex Richards and Shane Masko came out to
PCFD13 to cross train 11 of PCFD13 staff and volunteers with water rescue response for drowning or drowned person in the Puget Sound. While the divers are trained for specialized search and rescue dives in all types of bodies of water and conditions, the fire district has a marine vessel for responding to water rescue emergencies in Browns Point and Dash Point waters in the Puget Sound. The district does not deploy underwater divers during rescue missions. However, supporting those who are underwater is critical to rescue.
The PCMDT shared how they navigate under the water and the challenges below the
surface. They use sonar, an underwater video camera and remote operated vehicles
(ROVs) in addition to divers in the water. During an emergency when the divers are called out for rescue or recovery they require trained personnel above keeping an eye out for them above water and helping divers navigate the sometimes-murky waters. According to Richards, in many cases the water in the Puget Sound can be like swimming in chocolate milk. Therefore, having someone above to help keep the divers safe is paramount.
The fire district staff and volunteers learned about specific tugs and radio communication with the divers during the process. Each team from PCFD13 got to practice alongside the dive teams to learn how to communicate and navigate a territory in the water.
In addition to assisting with the response, there may be times when the fire district staff may be asked to document while they are tending, from the shore or a boat. This documentation is just as important as the rescue and will be used to support their findings in the field. Additionally, the fire district may be assisting in basic life support for the drowned victim. Hypothermic patients can survive a lot longer without sustained brain damage with the right basic life support from trained personnel.
PC Metro Dive Team members are career law enforcement officers tasked with learning and responding as an extra-duty to their normal duties. They go through more than 40 hours of scuba diving training before they enter the program. An additional 40 hours of on-the-job training in this unique field. Furthermore, they complete about 20 hours of underwater training each month to keep their skills fresh and 40 hours or more each year learning swift water rescue. They respond to approximately 60-70 calls per year in Pierce County. To learn more about Pierce County Metro Dive Team go to: https://www.co.pierce.wa.us/2159/Dive-Team.
Pierce County Sheriff’s Department established a Swift Water Rescue Team. For more information you can click the link here: https://www.co.pierce.wa.us/2164/Swift-Water-Rescue
As a reminder, please wear a life jacket when on or near open water and help fit children properly into a life jacket. If you are not sure how to properly fit or adjust a life jacket bring it into your local fire department and ask for assistance. If you need assistance or resources for finding a life jacket you can go to: http://safekidspierce.org/our-programs/water-safety/ for more information with Safe Kids Pierce County.