From fighting fire to search and rescue

Firefighters train for new marine role

Six firefighters are undergoing intensive training this week to equip themselves for a new search and rescue role on Cayman’s coastal waters.

The group is being trained in handling boats and WaveRunners, marine navigation and rehearsing search and rescue scenarios on the water.

The training is part of a joint project between police, customs and firefighters. Ultimately, 24 firefighters will be trained for the new part of the job.

Police and fire officers line up at the Joint Marine Unit headquarters as firefighters take part in training exercises. – PHOTO: ALVARO SEREY

Chief Fire Officer David Hails said his men were ready and eager to take on the new responsibility.

“They are excited about it. Every one of the men taking part in the training now and in the future has volunteered for the role,” he said.

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“This is something that was needed. With the location of the fire stations and the fact that firefighters are on duty 24/7, it makes sense to use that capability in joint marine operations.”

He said trained firefighters already have some of the core skills needed for the role, but need specific training in using watercraft in rescue situations.

“There are quite a few islands where firefighters have a marine search and rescue role,” he added.

He said the latest recruit class would also receive marine training.

Henry Ebanks, one of the first firefighters to take the training, said the course has been tough but interesting.

“I am always one to face new challenges, that is why I signed up for this course and I’m really looking forward to it,” Mr. Ebanks said. “This is all new to me. I live on an island, but this is the first time I’ve really learned to operate a boat.

“I enjoy facing new challenges. I look forward every day to learning skills to help people in need.”

Mr. Hails said the training is an ongoing process and firefighters would not be put on search and rescue duty until they were ready.

There will be WaveRunners stationed at three fire stations in George Town, Frank Sound and West Bay and a rigid hull inflatable boat at the West Bay Fire Station. The WaveRunners will be fitted with rescue boards to help carry stricken swimmers or snorkelers back to shore.

The marine police have also added two new Jet Skis to their fleet. Superintendent Robbie Graham said the partnership with fire service and customs would add new capability to Cayman’s emergency services.

“We all have similar skills, first aid and public safety roles and we all work to keep our community and our visitors safe. It makes sense that we work in a collaborative way.”

He said the WaveRuners, which can be operated at night, would also be useful for crime fighting operations and chasing criminals in parts of the island not easily accessible by boat, such as the mangroves.

Adrian Clarke, the training administrator at the Joint Marine Unit, and Customs Officer Randolph Jackson are leading the week-long training session.

Mr. Clarke said the firefighters would continue to receive training throughout their careers.

“This is a basic course. Once you take on the role of rescuing, this training has to continue because these are perishable skills. If you don’t have ongoing training you tend to lose some of it.”

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