[dropcap]F[/dropcap]rom the south basin of Lake Havasu to the Colorado River along the Parker Strip, first responders take to the river and canals every year to participate in a course with the Buckskin Fire Department and learn and perfect their diving and water rescue skills.
“This class is so unique because those who take the dive and rescue course are getting real life experience, in an actual location where rescues have been done,” said Lt. Guy Nelson, program’s Lead Instructor and an experienced diver.
With boats and water toys dominating the Lake Havasu area waterways and those beyond State Route 95, there are instances where water rescue teams would be called to a variety of water-related emergencies.
In 1981, the La Paz County Sheriff’s Department ran the dive and rescue course until 2008, when the Buckskin Fire took over and decided to combine the course with that of the sheriff’s department.
“In rescues, we share a boat with Sheriff and Fire Departments and when we work together as a team in a rescue situation, we are flawless,” said Nelson.
“We don’t care if it’s a police officer or firefighter we are one team.”
During training, students are exposed to rough, muddy and dark waters which resemble a real life diving experience when searching for bodies. Repetitive exercises are also performed to ensure that each student in the course fully understands the concept of the exercise and is experienced when faced with a real life scenario.
Deputy Roger Rosado, with the La Paz County Sheriff’s Department who took the course, admits the training exercises, although at times can get tough, are an invaluable experience.
“I think it was a really great class, it takes a lot of you physically and mentally but it gives you a lot of confidence building going under water, and running into staged situations,” Rosado said.
“When it’s a rescue situation we come across in real life, the skills and confidence building will help real rescues and recoveries.”
Real vehicles submerged under water for training purposes is one of the situations a person taking the course will encounter. In addition to a life-sized dummy, instructors use other advanced divers who role play as rescue victims to recreate a real emergency and require divers to bring them to the water’s surface.
“It’s a different experience when you are training to rescue a training dummy compared to a real person,” Rosado said.
“How they move compared with a dummy is completely different,” said Rosado. “What you learn in this class is invaluable.”
The class is offered annually or bi-annually, depending on the number of students signed up for the course and the class is small so personalized training is available.
“I think it’s a huge benefit to our first responders, it gives them the skills to respond to an emergency,” said Chris Chambers, Chief of Buckskin Fire Department and instructor in the program.
The dive course is open to all first responders and the cost makes it a worthwhile learning opportunity since most courses like these run around a $1,000 or more, but because the Buckskin Fire Department has volunteer instructors, and sponsors including Native-Air, Tri-State Careflight, A-Toe (tow) truck company, Havasu Springs Resort and S.C.U.B.A Guy Diving, the course is offered at a low cost.
“We have first responders and public safety officials come down to this class from as far as Yuma County,” Chambers said.
“We open it to all public safety personnel.”
The cost for the course is $175, and is a three-day class. CPR certification is also offered if first responders need to renew.
“There are a lot of dangers in the canal, and to be able to do a dive successfully is something that made me really proud,” said Rosado.
The Buckskin Fire District is located within La Paz County, between Headgate Rock Dam and Parker Dam.
For more information on the course and training, visit www.buckskinfiredepartment.com