LENEXA, Ks — Local first responders are making sure water rescue is a vital part of their training.
As summer continues and many people head to bodies of water, experts say it is important to have respect for how powerful waters can be.
Capt. Phil Gisel leads the water rescue training for the Lenexa Fire Department. The skills he teaches the new recruits are vital, as it could mean life of death for someone in dangerous situations.
“Knowing your area, knowing your surroundings, knowing how to deal with water that doesn’t look like it’s dangerous, but you can’t see what’s underneath, that’s probably one of the biggest reasons for us to need the training,” Gisel said. “You get to that moment where you think ‘I can handle this,’ but it just takes that one instance right?”
Gisel said knowing your location at all times is crucial, especially when out on large lakes. Any information on your whereabouts can help speed up the rescue process.
“How many people are in the car? Where did you last see them? Is anybody underwater? Those are all things that would be extremely helpful for us to know before we get there,” said Gisel.
The Overland Park Fire Department conducts its own set of water rescue training in Johnson County. Thirty-three members of the department are trained to water rescue technician level. They meet six times a year to train in rough water conditions.
While Johnson County is far from big lakes, Capt. Jason Neese said severe weather in the Midwest poses the dangers of swift waters to our area.
“Rising streams, swift water, vehicles being swept away, people getting too close to the water… Every year, we’re dealing with some sort of water rescue call,” said Neese.
Neese said this time of typically sees an uptick in water incidents. Most of them are caused by people being under the influence of drugs and alcohol. He warns knowing your limitations is very important.
“Make sure [kids are] in the appropriate PPE, appropriate PFD for their size and activity that they’re going to be doing,” said Neese. “If you have a pool, make sure that it is surrounded by a fence — something that a child cannot get through,” Neese said.
He also advised that at public pools, it’s important to designate a “water watcher” if a lifeguard is not on duty.
Neese also said those who are already comfortable in the water should consider getting a CPR certification. It can be an incredibly valuable skill to have as a bystander.