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Firefighters dip into water protocol for warm season

April 09, 2014 - By Meg Peters

Review Staff Writer

   Had Orion Township Fire Chief Bob Smith entered the pool like his firefighters Tuesday, April 8, he would have been in a potential victim wearing floaties instead of manning a backboard like the rest of his firefighters.

   Firefighters from the four Orion stations had a special training opportunity with EMS Coordinator Gary Proctor at the Lake Orion High School pool to take their medical practices from land to water.

   The purpose of the continued training was to learn how to safely remove a victim from the water using a backboard.

   "Everyone knows how to put a person on a backboard," Proctor said, "but they needed to learn how to do that while rotating someone in the water and maintaining their spinal alignment while on their back," he said.

   It was a perfect opportunity, Chief Smith said, because high schoolers were on spring break, and the lifeguards of the pool were included in the drills as well.  

   The trick to a water emergency is having enough men on hand to manipulate the backboard, which wanted to bounce and flip around in the water. Three to four men are required for proper handling, Proctor said.

   Proctor does monthly training sessions for fire team members who are logging education hours during their licensing period, requiring about three years of continued education.

   "It's a chance to do something different," Chief Smith said. "We have dozens of lakes in the township, and I can't tell you how many pools, so the potential for somebody to get hurt is pretty high."

   Chief Smith said there were about 10 water accidents last year and one situation where a victim was dragged out of the pool by her parents before waiting for certified EMS to arrive.

   Everything turned out okay, Smith said, but the intimidation factor was there.

   These sessions help the emergency response teams practice a low-use skill that has a pretty significant impact if done properly, Proctor said.

   "Even if we only have one accident this year, and the guys go out there with their hands-on training from the pool and perform flawlessly, no hesitation, that's priceless training right there." Chief Smith said. "It doesn't have to be somebody with a back or neck injury. It could be a broken femur, and they will be able to figure it all out."


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