Emergency responders train at sea

SUN PHOTO BY TOM CHANG Lt. Chris Kendrick swims to “rescue” Frank Paolella Jr., both of Charlotte County Fire/EMS, as part of a joint training exercise between Fire/EMS and the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Oÿce off Gasparilla Marina Friday in Placida.

PLACIDA — Synchronization is everything when it comes to Charlotte County emergency personnel, and that was the purpose of Friday’s joint marine training exercise between Charlotte County Fire/EMS and the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office.

“We do these exercises about twice a year, a joint exercise with the Sheriff’s Office,” said Lt. Chris Kendrick of Charlotte Fire/EMS. “We train on our own two days a week.”

“The whole purpose of this training is familiarization with the Sheriff’s Office’s vessels for our personnel and vice-versa,” he said. “We get a lot of calls together and we have access to each other’s vessels, so this helps bridge the resources between the two departments.”

The joint training sessions typically take three to four hours and occur twice a year. The timing of the session correlates with the increased activity over the summer from June to August.

“We’re a tourist location,” Kendrick said. “Our call volume goes up for water-based calls. Familiarization is key to the job. We do things in an emergency in a quick, timely manner, and organized, and in order to do that is to be familiar with your equipment and train frequently.”

Kendrick said during the holiday weekends patrols may go out for eight to 10 hours a day.

“Obviously, if we see an egregious act going on, we notify the Sheriff’s Office and they’re out on the water as well,” he said. “They come in and intervene. That’s our goal to keep people safe, see what’s going on and be closer to the area if something happens.”

SUN PHOTOS BY TOM CHANG Rob Hardgrove and Eric Ogden of the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office Marine Patrol Unit arrive for a joint training exercise between Charlotte County Fire/EMS and the CCSO off Gasparilla Marina Friday in Placida.

CCSO’s patrols go up to 10 hours a day, according to Rob Hardgrove of CCSO’s Marine Unit.

Kendrick said Charlotte Fire/EMS remain vigilant into the winter months even as activity slows.

“The volume will be less since not as many people will be out on the water with the cold conditions, but you have to worry about cold fronts,” he said. “The people who do come out, you have to worry about sometimes they get into some nasty weather. We still have a decent amount of calls.”

Jason Fair, deputy chief of Charlotte Fire/EMS, said his staff trains twice a week.

“We train in things like navigating during the day and at night, operating with GPS numbers, operating search patterns with flares,” he said. “That’s things they do on a regular basis in addition to their personal requirements like their swimming or rescuing ability.

“We work with both Sarasota and Lee counties. With Sarasota, we have an Englewood component we work with on a regular basis. We operate around Boca Grande with Lee County. We also work with their emergency response team regularly. While we typically work with other counties twice a year, we work with Lee once a year.”

Standard procedure for a person stranded on the water is the boat will arrive near the victim and one person will be tethered and swim out to the victim as another pulls both in with the line.

Kendrick operated as the “rescuer” while Frank Paolella Jr. of Charlotte Fire/EMS acted as the “victim.”

The second exercise involved personnel dealing with an injured victim. While Paolella acted “injured,” Kendrick signaled to the boat that the person was injured and needed a portable gurney to properly secure the victim. Daniel Sacksteder of Charlotte Fire/EMS jumped in with basket in tow to the scene. As Kendrick secured Paolella’s neck, Sacksteder helped strap Paolella to the gurney.

Charlotte Fire/EMS has two boats in use. Marine 1 covers the Tom Adams Bridge, Charlotte Harbor, Cape Haze and Burnt Store, while Marine 2 covers Charlotte Harbor, Myakka River, Peace River and the underlying areas within.

Charlotte County Firefighter/EMT Danny Sacksteder helps Lt. Chris Kendrick to “secure” Frank Paolella Jr., who is acting as an injured victim, to a gurney.

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About Tom

Tom Chang is a freelance journalist with a background in multimedia journalism and web publishing. He is currently pursuing his Masters in Journalism and Media Studies from the University of South Florida St.Petersburg. He graduated in 2004 with a Bachelors Degree in Mass Communications at USF Tampa. Tom's interests include a little bit of everything from entertainment to sports. He also wishes to delve into creative writing writing sci-fi/fantasy stories. Tom was recently the Online Editor for USF St. Petersburg's the Crow's Nest, he joined the staff in January 2010 where he started freelance writing, photographing, copy editing and later became a staff writer. Tom’s freelance experience in journalism amassed a wide range of companies including Creative Loafing, The Focus Magazine, Lutz News, Examiner.com, and Tampa Tribune.
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