It’s not every day you hear of federal and local organizations joining forces and working together hand and hand. In Nueces County, there’s a partnership that’s proven to save lives at a moments notice. But it’s the joint training between the Flour Bluff Fire Department and the U.S. Coast Guard Sector Air Station Corpus Christi that’s making a difference. The Coast Guard sector out of Corpus Christi is responsible for an area that spreads between Port Lavaca and Brownsville and goes as far South as the Mexico border. Annually it conducts over 450 search and rescue cases and assists more than 550 people in distress on average. Along with other duties and the amount coverage area, having a local resource nearby helps when minutes matter.
At least a couple of times a month the Flour Bluff Fire Department performs training to practice scenarios on save lives. In 2013 they started responding to calls on the water. With the addition of a 22ft Boston Whaler, they’ve proven to be a valuable resource not only for the coastal area but also for the U.S. Coast Guard. But it’s the two agencies joint training that’s paying off.
Josh Carlson AST-3 with the U.S. Coast Guard Sector, Air Station Corpus Christi says, “Today the Hilo will be doing rescue swimming training. They’ll deploy rescue swimmers, practicing free falls, practicing other deployments and recoveries.”
The Fire Departments boat allows them to glide across the coastal waters at emergency response speeds to assist when called upon. Being familiar with their surroundings and team members that ensures a safe mission.
According to Chief Dale Scott with the Flour Bluff Fire Department, “It’s important to train together because if you have to work together especially in the wee hours of the morning, you need to know what each is going to do and what you expect them to do.”
It’s all about being on the same page. As the Hilo takes flight, the Coast Guard and the fire department are in constant communication via a secure radio frequency. Practicing different scenarios and in different conditions helps not only the swimmers but those on board to Hilo as well.
Carlson says, “The pilots are also training as well and also the flight tech. He’s the one who operates the hoist. Just honing our skills.”
The scenarios are only practice. As the swimmers, pilot and fire Department personnel go through the motions they understand being prepared and aware, is the difference between losing lives and saving lives.
Chief Scott says, “If you put the boat in the wrong place and the helicopter has an issue it could accidentally land on you or you can impede them while they’re trying to to do something also.”
Since 2013 the Flour Bluff Fire Department has responded to more than 200 water rescue calls and saved almost 60 lives. But it’s what the two groups can do together, they’re hoping will add up. The scenarios and training allow them to respond more effectively for when the real situation happens.
According to Chief Scott, “We’re all in the same mission, protect the public.”
It’s that mission that forces them to train hard and often ensuring no matter when the emergency they’re ready to go.