Firefighters receive specialized water rescue training at Holbrook Park

Published: Sep. 23, 2022 at 8:07 PM CDT
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Lake Charles, LA (KPLC) - After severe flooding in recent years, it’s clear first responders in Southwest Louisiana are often called upon to perform water rescues.

A training agency devoted to that came to our area to teach new skills to area firefighters. Thirty Lake Area firefighters learned skills that may one day mean the difference between life and death for somebody or themselves.

The participants gathered at Holbrook Park to learn techniques to use when performing a water rescue. First they learned on dry ground and went through the motions of skills they would later demonstrate in the water.

Gary Simon is a water rescue instructor with Strategic Technical Aquatic Resources and Rescue (STARR), a nonprofit from Mississippi. He said such training is vital.

“Operations level gives them techniques to be able to stand on a shoreline and save people that are in water. So, we teach them rope throwing skills, throwback and how to capture somebody which is good for about 80 percent of our saves, paddling drills in a boat, how to maneuver around hazards and environmental things. How to capture somebody and put them in a boat,” said Simon.

They learned how teamwork will keep them safe.

“We teach them how to hold onto each other, how to step safely, how to make sure they have secure footing so that we can alleviate that pressure,” Simon said.

And they learn about keeping emotions in check.

“A lot of people get wrapped up and they see a problem and emotion urgency takes over and they rush in without stopping and thinking. One of the biggest things we teach them is to stop, catch your breath and then move because that way it’s going to save your life,” Simon said.

By afternoon they’re in the water trying out the skills that will help them rescue people in a variety of predicaments. For instance, they learned the best way bring someone who’s overboard back into the boat.

And what if the boat flips? How do you get it right side up with a man inside? The trainees demonstrate, it’s not as easy as it looks by completely flipping the man in the boat out again. But on the second try, it went perfectly.

And of course, the training was just simulated because there are no swift waters at Holbrook Park.

This was STARR’s first time in the Lake Charles area.