Aquatic rescue training held in Port Elizabeth
A team of eight fire fighters recently attended a Rescue Technician course offered by Emergency Medical Services of the Metro of Port Elizabeth. The course commenced 11 months ago with 16 candidates but due to the high standard of the training, eight candidates could not complete the training. 59 year old Achmat Ellie, a veteran of 37 years in the service, was part of the team. “We had to go undergo a vigorous water efficiency test which consisted of a swim, water threading and underwater swim and an underwater object recovery.
The training commenced on 28 March 2019 under the leadership of J Kotze and L Walis, both veterans from the Emergency Medical Services.
The course was divided into three components; the water rescue (open water) component, which consisted of open water swimming and rescues techniques water currents (a must to understand).Ellie said that during one of the open water swims they were fortunate enough to encounter dolphins. They had to practice helicopter exits from different heights into the ocean, this happened in the first seven days of the training. The next seven days focussed on motorised and non-motorised water crafts, jets ski’s with water articulation, power crafts that require you to manage water flow and wave knowledge and the non-motorised crafts, requiring muscle power. The last two weeks was devoted to swift water rescue, with the first seven days being theory and requiring a pass to progress to the next level of swift water rescue.
The swift water rescue practical was conducted at the Elands Drift Dam, approximately 60km outside of Somerset East, a tributary of the Great Fish River. On arrival on the Sunday evening, Ellie says, “We pitched our tents and could hear the power of the water in the back ground, it was scary. The warnings we received were, don’t drink the water and be on the lookout for snakes (don’t panic a paramedic with the necessary snake anti venom will be in attendance). As fire fighters we followed the sound of the noise from the river and when we saw the force of the river came to the conclusion that we will only be camping here and the training will be held somewhere else. The comments were, ‘we are going to die here’.”
“The Monday morning started off with rope throwing for two hours, why, what went through my head was who trains for so long a rope throw exercise, it must be important,” he said.
“Then the instruction came, wetsuits and safety equipment on and to the river, the place we did not want to be. The start of the wet work was in the channel, what a rush of adrenalin. Eight in the water, eight with throw ropes, now we saw the reason why the throw rope training. No rope no rescue.”
“We all unintentionally swallowed the water via the nose. On the second day the problems started with diarrhoea. Some of the candidates contracted diarrhoea (including myself). That was the last day I ate solid foods,” Ellie said. The training consisted of a weir swim, how to get over a blockage in the river, how to rescue from fast flowing water, self rescue, removing patients from fast flowing water with equipment and without equipment(make human triangles in the water and moving forward), breathing under water and using crocs crafts in the fast flowing water, crossing a river with a croc to perform a rescue.
Ellie says his highlight was taking the croc down the Great Fish River for approximately ten kilometres.
The following fire fighters qualified to attend the course, A Ellie, W Pietersen, M Minnie, M Bosman, A van Antwerp, J Coltman, A Geddie and R Jerling.
Ellie concluded, “Will I do the training again? Yes!”
Source: Achmat Ellie