IID Underwater Recovery Team trains EC fire department in water rescues

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Robert Amparano, an Imperial Irrigation District recovery diver, portrays a victim as firefighters pull him out of the water during the El Centro Fire Department’s water rescue training Wednesday at the El Centro Water Treatment Plant.

EL CENTRO – The Imperial County is home to many irrigation canals and in an effort to train the El Centro Fire Department, the IID Underwater Recovery Team held water rescue training and simulations at the El Centro Water Treatment Plant. The training began Wednesday, July 12, and will continue for the next three days.

To simulate the effects of drowning incidents, trainers utilized the El Centro Water Treatment plant in order to give fire department personnel the same experience without the risk.

“Since most of the firefighters are not completely experienced in this aspect of the job, it allowed us to bring them to the water treatment plant and put them in real life situation” without the chance of injuries, said Robert Amparano, a recovery diver for the Imperial Irrigation District.

Amparano began the session by asking the group of firefighters about the experiences they have had on the job. Once Amparano determined their background information and experience level, it was time to enter the water.

A dummy was thrown into the water and forced to sink to the bottom to simulate a drowning victim. Once the dummy was submerged, Amparano jumped in the water to spot where the “victim” had sunk, and that is when the true work began.

The firefighters were tasked with working together as a team to execute the rescue, and began with one firefighter throwing a rope out to Amparano in order to secure himself and the victim.

Once the lifeline was secure, a firefighter met Amparano at the bank to help him lift the victim into a basket that was used to pull out the victim. Every one on the bank of the reservoir pulled together to hoist the basket and victim out of the water. Once that task was achieved, those in the water exited by holding on to the lifeline.

As the “victim” reached the bank, standard emergency cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and other rescue procedures were executed on the dummy until the ambulances could arrive.

The next training episode was geared to teach firefighters how to rely and count on one person’s strength. Since real life situations can change in a second, firefighters practiced exiting the water by themselves without help from crew members.

Each member of the fire department had to pull their own weight up the side of the concrete wall to get out of the water. With one member struggling to exit, Amparano showed the team a trick. By having one person on his stomach on the ground and hanging his feet over the edge and into the water, it gave their fellow firefighter the leverage needed to pull himself out of the water.

“Unfortunately, real life situations may not go as smoothly as this training,” said Amparano. “But by teaching the fire department methods of teamwork, it can help the operation run better.”

One of the last tasks of the day involved firefighters working with Amparano while he was submerged underwater with SCUBA gear, to help spot the body in zero visibility water. Once the “victim” was located, the team had to once again work together to bring all the bodies up and out of the water.