EL Fire Department Trains for Water Rescues

Friday, June 29, 2018, 9:28 am
Evan Dempsey

The Lake Lansing Boat Launch parking lot was swarming with fire trucks and ambulances, but this was no fire.

The East Lansing Fire Department (ELFD) was using the venue for a day of training designed to teach new firefighter-paramedics (and to remind veterans) of the proper procedures and techniques for dealing with emergencies on the water. The day began with a PowerPoint presentation in the morning, and progressed to live demonstration and practice of techniques for rescuing individuals stranded in the water.

Captain Cam Howie of ELFD has seen firsthand the importance of this kind of training. Howie, one of the department’s instructors for the event, has been involved with numerous water rescue situations during his 24-year tenure with ELFD.

“I’ve been involved in river rescues on the Red Cedar,” Howie said. “We’ve had rescues out here [at Lake Lansing].” While Lake Lansing is technically under the jurisdiction of Meridian Township, ELFD assists township authorities with all water rescues.

For ELFD, a water rescue generally involves removing people, often injured, who are submerged or stranded in a body of water, and the training session reflected this. Firefighter-paramedics practiced techniques for safely removing incapacitated people from the water, while teaching those same techniques to several lifeguards from the East Lansing Aquatic Center who were in attendance. This exercise was followed by a boat rescue drill, where firefighter-paramedics worked on moving stranded people onto the ELFD rescue boat.

Despite the fact that all ELFD firefighter-paramedics (not only new recruits) participate in this water rescue training annually, precaution is always better than reaction. Howie says there are several simple things boaters and other people on the water can do to stay safe.

“Life jackets are key,” Howie said. Despite the fact that law requires only children age six and under to wear lifejackets on watercraft, Howie said that “everyone should have a lifejacket on.” Wearing the lifejackets isn’t the whole picture, either.

“You should always have them on your boat,” Howie said. “They should be readily accessible, not stored in a cabinet, so if an incident does happen, you can get somebody a life jacket right away.”