Last updated: June 18. 2014 8:50AM - 677 Views
By Kevin Boozer kboozer@civitasmedia.com

Divers use the YMCA pool to train.
Divers use the YMCA pool to train.
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NEWBERRY — Thanks to the efforts of its members and its partnership with the Newberry County Family YMCA, the Newberry County Water Rescue Dive Team recently completed the Dive Rescue 1 training with two divers and five tenders.

The intense training, held at the YMCA outdoor pool, was for three days and led to them becoming Public Safety Dive Rescue Specialists in their respective function, Diver or Tender.

“They are all now ready to go on a mission as primary response personnel and perform a rescue or recovery dive if we have to this afternoon. Also, all of the topside personnel who went to training are prepared to support those divers today,” said Glenn L. Hamm, chief of the Prosperity Rescue Squad. “The training and commitment exhibited by the members of this team is crucial to the success of the missions to which we respond. Our team trains hard to ensure that we are at our peak performance.”

That performance can be the difference between life and death.

According to the World Health Organization, drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional injury death for children ages 1 to 14 in the United States.

According to www.lifeexpectancy.com, South Carolina ranks 13th in the nation in rate of drowning, with 1.5 drownings happening per every 100,000 people.

With those statistics in mind, one team became a certified dive medic, a position Hamm says is somewhat like an EMT for dive medicine.

“The dive medic program builds on medical first responder and EMT training by adding dive medicine specific components. The course is designed to monitor the health of your divers and respond, on scene, to dive emergencies such as pneumothorax and cerebral arterial gas embolism,” Hamm said.

They also have a paramedic on staff for the dive team.

For Dive Rescue 1, topside support personnel work with public safety divers. They have class in and out of the water. During class, the students learn about crime scene operations, witness interviews and rescue and recovery techniques.

Once this class is completed, the personnel can specialize in areas such as Med-Dive and Underwater Investigator.

The added training increases local capabilities to assist not only incidents on Lake Greenwood, Lake Murray or in area ponds and rivers but also in other counties through mutual aid.

Partnership for mutual aid

“Every mission that we are tasked with ultimately requires inter-agency cooperation between the many of the agencies that make up the public safety sector. Our team works in cooperation with sheriff’s offices, the Department of Natural Resources, EMS and local Fire and Rescue personnel. Each of these agencies have specific functions within the operation that helps make the mission a success,” Hamm said. “As we have seen time and time again, it is very difficult for any one agency to take on the entire load and it is a team effort that expedites the success of the mission.”

Hamm credited the Newberry County Sheriff’s Office for its strong support of the team and for its guidance as the team was established.

“Our team proudly works alongside Sheriff Foster and his Deputies to support their department as resource incidents that require dive operations. The collaborative effort reaches far beyond the borders of our county, however,” Hamm said. “In the past year we have assisted our neighbors in Saluda County, Union County and Fairfield County. Additionally, we have received mutual aid in support in our missions from those counties just mentioned as well as Charleston County, Horry County and Lexington County.”

So a text or phone call to dive team members could send them any number of places on a call. Once the call goes out the squad mobilizes a number of vehicles, including a trailer that houses water rescue and dive gear. The response gear includes personal floatation devices (life jackets), helmets, an on-scene command post, ropes and dive gear.

Hamm said there are a variety of roles team members can play.

“We’re always looking for new members. We not only need divers, we need support personnel as well,” Hamm said. “For every one of our divers, we ideally need three or four support personnel to direct the search underwater and to keep them safe.”

Members needed

Once a person becomes a member of the team, they are assigned a specific job function based his or her interests. Divers, tenders, medical, and support staff positions are all available.

The dive team tries to get in wet training each month in addition to other first responder training in conjunction with the Prosperity Rescue Squad, Station 17.

“We train constantly to keep every member’s skills sharp so we can be both safe and effective on a mission,” said dive master Carl Eugene Moore.

However, even with the technology and training, the team requests area boaters and swimmers be proactive and practice water safety to reduce the likelihood the team will be called upon to do its duty.

“As a swimmer, know your limits and use the buddy system,” Hamm said. “While in and around water designate a responsible adult to watch young children. Finally, while boating avoid alcohol and wear a personal floatation device.”

To learn more about the Newberry County Water Rescue Dive Team, follow them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/groups/276379675719958/. People interested in joining the dive team can reach Glenn Hamm at 803-924-7146 for more information.

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