July 1, 2013

Chicamacomico Banks Water Rescue:
Always ready…WITH SLIDE SHOW

By IAN BISANTZ


If you have ever been on the beach in the Rodanthe area any day of the week between the hours of 10 a.m. and 7:30 p.m., you have more than likely seen the Chicamacomico Banks Water Rescue Team patrol. 

Led by co-captains Chet Bailey and Larry Grubbs, the Chicamacomico Banks Water Rescue Team operates seven days a week and patrols the beaches with a four-wheel-drive truck and personal watercraft, and they’re ready for any emergencies that arise.

Lt. Ken Mason says that the team has to be ready to go at an instant.

“The scenario can change within seconds,” he said. “Most of the day, you can just be driving the beaches and then multiple calls will come in. These men and women have to be on their toes ready to jet.”

With a response time of anywhere from zero to 30 seconds, ready is exactly what the team is. I had an opportunity to train with the team to really see how they prepare themselves for this get-up-and-go mentality.

During the week, the water rescue team has three days of training. Training consists of various physical training and water rescue exercises. The team members prepare themselves for all possible scenarios -- whether the exercise is for a conscious or an unconscious victim.  The team works with the personal watercraft on a weekly basis in large and small surf to understand how it handles in every situation.

Rip currents can be strong and dangerous on the Outer Banks, so it’s very important for the team to be comfortable, strong, and knowledgeable in the surf. The team has various water exercises that include the use of a rescue board, watercraft, and surf rescue board. The intensity of these workouts is threat level as every team member is sprinting through the sand or the water. Such a high intensity workout makes sure each exercise simulates an actual event.

The team is able to keep such high intensity because of its equally intense physical training. The team members, before rescue training, engage in numerous physical exercises. Planks, beach running, pushups, and even the dreaded “Chinese” pushups are only a taste of the training these members have to endure.

While training with the water rescue team, the skill and focus that each individual member contributes allows for the team to be a dynamic, well-tuned machine. Greg Midgett, a team member and physical training leader, makes sure that everyone is completing his or her exercises in and out of the water. Midgett not only participates with the team but he sticks with the team. He is the voice of encouragement that pushes every member until they can go no more, and then pushes them more. 

Other team members -- Officers Jeremy Carpenter, Dean Hutton, and Joanna Kowalska -- all work with Greg equally in discussing rescue scenarios and tactics. Each member brings his or her own unique skill and personality to the team. While Carpenter offers veteran experience, team members Hutton and Kowalska bring life to the squad through lively participation and fun, outgoing attitudes.

Even though Midgett is a team leader through the physical training, he listens to the advice of all his fellow members. Communication across all levels of the team is important for not only practice scenarios but for real emergency situations. When planning for emergency situations, the team has to be ready for anything to happen.

During one recent training session, that is exactly what happened. When the personal watercraft malfunctioned, the team immediately went on alert as Carpenter and Kowalska were stuck out in the breakers. From the shore, team members Midgett and Hutton were ready.

Luckily, Carpenter was able to maneuver the watercraft within the surf, close enough for the team to rescue. Immediately the scenario became a mad dash to get the watercraft beached and to a safe location out of the breakers. The entire team surrounded the watercraft and hoisted it up to the beach safely within a matter of seconds.

The Chicamacomico Banks Water Rescue Team is a highly trained unit that strives for the protection of everyone on the Rodanthe beaches. They are paid for their work, but the team operates almost solely from donations with some funding from Dare County and Chicamacomico Banks Volunteer Fire Department.

The ocean can be dangerous, but visitors and islanders can swim a little safer knowing that these men and women are out there patrolling the beaches.

The Chicamacomico Banks Water Rescue is located at milepost 39 on Highway 12 in Rodanthe. If you would like to know more, you can contact the Chicamacomico Banks Water Rescue at P.O. Box 125, Rodanthe, NC 27968 and make sure to dial 911 for any emergencies. Feel free to go online and check out the site as well at http://cbfd.org/index.htm.

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