Firemen train for just about every scenario. It’s not all about putting a fire out or freeing a person out of a wrecked vehicle. Water training is one area that people don’t think about.
Last Tuesday, members of the Grenada Fire Department gathered at the Kiwanis Pool as Certified Training Officer Chris Whitehurst and certified members of the dive team begin training some newly-hired firemen preparing to take part in certification to increase their current number of seven.
“The dive team is a volunteer group made up of firemen, volunteer firemen and deputies,” training officer Chris Whitehurst said. “We are sitting at seven certified members, having lost several over the years. Our goal is to get to 14-15 certified divers with at least four certified divers on each shift of the fire department if something comes up.”
The primary certification levels include open water, dark water and speciality diving.
“We prepare those guys to see if they can go to the certification class — we can’t certify them,” Whitehurst said.
Candidates for the certification course are put through a 300-meter swim and are able to tread water for 15 minutes. Then, they are shown how the gear works and how to put it together. They then get in the pool and see if they can go under water wearing the equipment.
“The air system for firefighting is completely different than the one for the underwater diving,” he added. “We go through various skills such as taking the regulator out and finding the regulator, putting it back in and cleaning it out. If they can handle these skills, they can do anything under open water. Open water certification is entry level. After that, you can get certified in all kinds of areas.”
Whitehurst said once divers are certified for open water diving, preparation begins in dark water diving. The divers aren’t the only positions that are important. Those that haven’t been certified are used as line tenders, boat operators and dredging equipment operators.
“There is a lot more involved than just diving,” Whitehurst concluded. “Each one is important to the other.”
Future plans see Whitehurst working to provide certifications in rescue swimming. This training will involve actual boats out in the summer when the beaches are open helping with rescues.
Members of the Grenada Fire Department dive team include, Whitehurst, Wesley Halford, Phillip Ross, Dustin Williams, Jess Moore, Devin Northrip and Donald Wilson.