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    Keeping the community safe on the water

    Aquatic Rescue_B1J2750

    From left: Chestermere Fire Services Capt. Brent Paquette and Senior Firefighter Paul McClure get the CFS rescue boat ready to launch. Photo by Jeremy Broadfield

    Responding to an emergency on the lake or storm ponds in the city can present a lot of challenges.
    Fortunately for anyone in need of help on the water the Chestermere Fire Service’s (CFS) Aquatic Response Unit is ready to respond.
    One hundred per cent of the department has been trained to respond to an emergency on the lake or other bodies of water.
    “And that’s new as of this year,” he said.
    Paquette said that this change greatly improves safety in the community.
    “The good thing…is across the board, it doesn’t matter what shift it is, what day it is, if it night shift or day shift that you’re going to get the exact same level of response no matter what time of day or year it is,” he said.
    Depending whether an emergency is on the lake or on another body of water in the area is key to determining how the Aquatic Team responds to an emergency.
    Docked at The Landing is the CFS’s boat while ready at the firehall is the department’s Search and Rescue Seadoo, aquatic response truck and inflatable raft.
    The next important determinant is the type of call. A hazardous materials call will require a different response from a vessel in distress which is different from a medical emergency on the lake.
    The general procedure when responding to the lake is for a minimum of two CFS members to suit up and go down to the boat and launch it.
    While this is happening the rest of the duty crew will go either to the 911 caller or will set up a central command post to coordinate the rescue.
    Once the boat arrives at the incident, the crew will perform the rescue or materials clean up and return to shore.
    “Then 99 per cent of the time hand them over to Alberta Health Services,” said Paquette.
    One of the most challenges rescues is getting an injured person secured to a back board in the water.
    “Back boarding in deep water is definitely a skill that our members have come to appreciate,” said Paquette.
    It can take a lot of work to handle all the aspects of the rescue while keeping the victims head and neck immobilized while they are secured to the board in the water.
    “The finesse and the talent it takes to do it,” he said.
    No matter what or where they are responding on the water, Paquette asks for the public to leave them room to work.
    “There’s a couple things that we ask,” he said, “one is to give us some space.”
    Secondly motor boots users as asked to slow down and leave as little wake as possible near the rescue.
    “Every boater…is responsible for their wake,” said Paquette.
    “So, the amount of wake they make off their vessel could impact on what we’re doing.”
    So far this year, Paquette said there has been an increase in call for the aquatic unit.
    “We’ve done six responses so far this year out on the water compared to…three last year,” he said.
    While CFS is always ready to respond to an emergency, they’d like to see people enjoying the lake safely and not be needed.
    He strongly urges lake users to pay attention to the weather and be aware of their skill level when going out this summer.
    “Know your boating skill level,” said Paquette, “don’t over estimate what your skill levels are, when you should be off the water, be off the water.”
    He also reminds people to always wear a life jacket when on the lake.
    While everyone’s idea of what constitutes an emergency is different, Paquette said that any time a person is concerned about someone on the water they should call 911.
    “Even if we just have to go talk to somebody and educate somebody we’re more than willing to do that,” said Paquette.