If you’ve ever tried to swim with shoes on you know it’s difficult to say the least. Now, imagine jumping into a pool wearing 45 pounds of uniform, breathing apparatus, boots, and a helmet. Kingstree Fire Department and Williamsburg County Fire Department, District 1, firefighters recently conducted water survival training as part of their monthly drill.
One might not imagine a firefighter falling into a pool but that is exactly what happened during a call several years ago. Firefighters in Charleston breached a door to a house fire. They entered a smoked filled room located near an entry door and plunged into an indoor pool. Fortunately for their training they were able to self-extricate and were not injured.
“That started the push for us,” said District 1, Chief Philip Goodwin. As firemen, we go to places where we don’t know what’s there.” Kingstree Fire Chief Tim Duke agreed, “It is of extreme importance that firefighters train regularly, to either learn new skills or help sharpen the skills they have already learned,” he said.
The drill replicates water environments such as a pond or river and exercises include ways to stay buoyant while fully dressed in the uniform by capturing air in your equipment. An example is to remove the helmet and turn it upside down, capturing the air and making it a floatation device. Boots can be used the same way. Staying calm is another factor in survival. Duke said they had one firefighter participate who could not swim and passed the test. “You’d be surprised,” said Duke. “Just don’t over exaggerate your movements.”