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Fire & Rescue District conducts training drills

By Staff | May 20, 2009

It was a very busy week for members of the Sanibel Fire & Rescue District. Not for any emergency situation here on the islands, although they are always prepared to respond to whatever disaster might be presented before them. They spent the week taking part in two completely different – but equally important – training exercises.

Earlier in the week, the team took part in three days worth of marine rescue exercises in the waters off of both Sanibel and Captiva, a twice-yearly effort conducted by area emergency response squads.

Later last week, they assisted the seventh grade class at The Sanibel School complete their course in CPR/AED training, with each student earning an official certification of those studies.

“We’re studying human biology, and to finish our dicussions about the circulatory system, these firefighters and EMTs teach the class all about how to perform CPR,” said Mary McCord, a middle school science teacher. “This gives them real hands-on experience.”

During the certification course, Sanibel Fire & Rescue District Training Officer Tim Barrett, as well as several members of his crew – Lt. Bert Kinney, Firefighter/Paramedic John Reittenbach and Firefighter/EMT John DiMaria – along with Sanibel Police Department Officer Grace Towler, instructed a pair of science classes how to perform Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR), how to aid victims of heart attacks, slip-and-falls, choking and fainting as well as how to administer an Automated External Defibrillator (AED).

“Every year, we do this for all of the seventh graders. It’s part of their science curriculum,” noted Barrett. “They study human biology in class, and we instruct them how they can apply what they’ve learned in an emergency situation.”

On Friday, students in McCord’s class were selected by Barrett to respond to random emergency situations, as sort of a “final examination” to the three hours of CRP/AED instruction. Individually and in small groups, the pupils put what they had learned into action.

“I feel pretty confident that if I saw someone pass out that I could help save them,” said student Marco Smith. “It feels good to be prepared.”

DiMaria, who taught the teens how to assist an infant in distress, said that the students he was instructing were very interested in learning how to perform CPR on toddlers.

“I think a lot of them could relate to that situation,” he explained. “Some of them have younger siblings or have a part-time job during the summer as a babysitter, so it’s something that they might need to use some day.”

Towler, who has taken part in the four-day instruction sessions in previous years, also offered praise for the youngsters.

“This was a good group of kids… they were all eager to learn,” she said. “In fact, they even wanted to learn more. I think that it’s great to offer hands-on instruction like this.”

Seventh grade student John Olson, whose final exam included performing mouth-to-mouth on a resuscitation training dummy, said that he enjoyed the experience, too.

“We just learned how to save a life,” he added. “They really taught us the importance of staying calm and calling 9-1-1 when something happens. I think that it’s something everybody should know how to do.”

All of the students who completed the CPR/AED course will receive their official certification cards within the next two weeks.

“They did a great job not panicking,” Barrett said. “I’ve seen situations where the kids are a lot calmer than the adults.”

Last Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, Barrett and fellow Fire & Rescue team members Capt. Tom Tracy and Firefighters Rob Doerr and Josh Koza took part in a series of marine rescue drills.

Along with emergency crews from Upper Captiva, Iona-McGregor, Cape Coral, Pine Island, Boca Grande, Charlotte County, the United States Coast Guard and the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, the local responders – which also included the Sanibel Police Department and SERAT – provided aid at several staged boat wrecks and marine distress calls.

“We do these drills twice each year,” said Barrett. “Having it off of Captiva and Sanibel is perfect because there are a lot of cities that might not do marine drills if they’re too far away. We’re close enough so many rescue teams can come here and take part in the training.”

On May 11, in the waters just north of South Seas Island Resort, the search-and rescue mission involved six “victims” of a boat wreck. One by one, emergency responders arrived on the scene, assessed the volunteer “victims” and brought them aboard their rescue vessels to be transported to safety.

Sanibel’s squad rescued a single “victim,” and they assisted the Iona-McGregor team in rescuing another. Before departing the drill staging area, the SERAT team transported a third rescued “victim” to the Fire & Rescue District’s boat: a coconut painted with a face on it. Doerr immediately dubbed it Wilson (referring to volleyball in the Tom Hanks movie, “Cast Away”) and said it would be stored inside Station #1’s trophy case.