California Health & Rescue Training

Personal Watercraft Rescue Operations

California State Fire Training recently introduced a new program of "Personal Watercraft Rescue Operations".  This program is a response to many requests from local jurisdictions that have been using personal watercraft to enhance their rescue efforts.

Many of these Fire Departments have acquired personal watercraft on government loan programs from personal watercraft manufacturers like Sea-doo, Kawasaki, Yamaha, Polaris, etc.  Most of these departmenst have found that the crafts are very effective and versatile tools for rescue, regardless whether the conditions are static water or dynamic water applications.  The problem has been that training officiers need to be sure that their personnel have adequate training on the crafts prior to placing them in service for use in critical rescue situations.

In response to those requests and in an effort to promote safety with what has become an increasingly more common rescue apparatus, State Fire Training introduced a sixteen hour FSTEP program, "Personal Watercraft Rescue Operations".  The program is comprehensive in content, providing the participant with a complete safety program on watercraft opreation and philosophy, as well as terminoplogy, river reading, navigational rules, etc.

Following the classroom portion, the class proceeds to a static water environment where they review pre-trip and post-trip inspections, launching procedures, righting tipped crafts and negotiating a buoy course alone and as part of a rescue team of two.  On day two, the class moves on to dynamic water environments where they learn how to perform rope crossing, victim pick-ups and pick-offs in moving water.

The program is being initially offered in a "Train-the-Trainer" format to allow for departments to go forth with their own training in a cost effective manner following a certification process.  Programs have been scheduled in Sacramento and the Fresno area and locations are being sought in other areas as well.

To provide this training, watercraft has to be provided for particpants to train on.  A request was submitted to Sea-doo watercraft on a government loan for training and was approved on an annual basis.  The delivery of two Sea-doo watercraft for training was a real plus for the program, as numerous reviews have found the Sea-doo as one of the best suited crafts for rescue, with a stable hull design and layout of the throttle and forward/revese control that allow for easy hovering operations in dynamic water.

The program is being instructed by Tony Hargett of Sacramento County Fire District and Kent Freeman of Roseville Fire Department.  Tony is the principle developer of the program.  He is one of the original coordinators of Sacramento County Fire District Personal Watercraft program, and he has spend untold hours developing techniques and procedures to maximize the effectiveness and safety of waerecraft in rescue operations.

This program should fulfill the needs of those departments looking for a standardized and recognized training program to provide basic skill levels to employees prior to allowing them to operate these crafts in actual rescues.  The program comes with complete lesson plans including student hand-outs, masters for overhead transparencies and quiz and skills check-off lists. 

If you have a potential for water recues in your jurisdicition, have personal watercraft in service or are investigating getting watercraft to enhance you water rescue potential, this class may be something you may want to take a serious look at.

By Kent Freeman