East Peoria Firefighters get river training rescue practice

By Mark Bullion

August 28, 2012 Updated Aug 28, 2012 at 6:52 PM CDT

EAST PEORIA, Ill -- Some East Peoria Firefighters got their feet wet Tuesday -- literally -- in the Illinois River by practicing river rescues.

While the rescues were not real, the lessons they learned serve an important role for when real-life situations do arise.

Fond Du Lac Police Chief Michael Johnson prepped East Peoria Firefighters for two Illinois River rescue scenarios Tuesday morning.

Firefighters slipped into their wetsuits, got in the rescue boat, and took off to the first scene where a construction worker on a crane fell around 15 feet onto a barge.

"The scenario was for the local fire department to work with the police department and actually extricate him from the boat so what we did with this scenario was they were actually boarded onto the vessel, put the individual on a backboard, and put him on the police boat with a 5 to 6 foot elevation," said Johnson.

But when it comes to the real thing, emergency responders have to be prepared because they don't know what injuries the person might have sustained.

"What they will do is the EMTs, the firefighters, they will do their initial assessment and determine what the injuries are and then try to stabilize them so we can get them back to land and transported to the hospital," added Johnson.

The second scenario involved a boating accident where a person was thrown from a boat and sustained neck and back injuries and was unconscious and non-responsive in the water.

"So at this point, we would actually have to put EMTs or paramedics in the water to stabilize him in the water, get him on a backboard, get him secured, and getting him onto a watercraft without further injuring him," said Johnson.

After both rescues were complete, firefighters say the rescues went relatively well.

"It's good team building for us, to know our operators, to have them deal with all the boat issues and us just concentrating on the rescue issues," said East Peoria Fire Department Lieutenant Ryan Beck.

"It was a good refresher; we had actually not done some river training like this in the last three or four years. We got out there, did one scenario the first time. It went well, but not as well as the second time," said East Peoria Fire Department Lieutenant Troy Dobbleaire.

Time is a critical component of river rescues because every second counts.

"We have two watercraft that are on the water 24-7, we keep one here at the Coast Guard and one at Spindler Marina. We found that if we keep them in the water ready to go with the equipment on it, it greatly reduces the amount of response time," said Johnson.

Tuesday was the second of three days of training for both departments.

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