Allen Cravey, who would head up the Albany Fire Department rescue team if funding is approved, says most mid-size to large cities have their own teams. Adding a rescue squad to the Fire Department would give Albanians "all bases" covered in regard to service, he said. (may 22, 2013)
ALBANY, Ga. -- With a unanimous preliminary decision by the City Commission, Albany firefighters have high hopes of creating a rescue dive team.
In a Tuesday work session, commissioners signed off in principle on the $56,785 tab required for state-of-the-art diving gear and specialized rescue training. The winning contract bid was submitted by Adventure Dive Center of Albany, 1104 N. Westover Road.
The primary purpose of a rescue dive team, according to James Carswell, Albany Fire Department chief, is "body retrieval." Carswell said there is a need for an average of two retrievals per year.
There's an agreement in place through GEMA, the Georgia Emergency Management Agency, whereby teams from nearby areas are bound to assist, Carswell said. The closest rescue teams are in Tifton and Thomasville, Carswell said, and do "an incredible job" of helping out in an emergency.
"Most of your mid-sized to larger public safety departments have their own dive teams," said Allen Cravey, assistant chief with the APD and immediate director of the proposed dive team. "It's probably the only public safety function that we could provide that we're not providing now. With this team, we expect to have all the bases covered."
"The resources of the nearby teams have been dwindling over the past few years," Carswell said, "so we usually wind up doing it the old-fashioned way, which is dragging with hooks."
Carswell said there are several disadvantages to using hooks. In his opinion, one of the worst parts of the process is the affect it has on the victim's family.
"It's inefficient," Carswell said. "It usually takes a long time, until the (victims') bodies start breaking down or they float to the surface. Anyone who has ever stood on the bank of a river with the (victim's) family members while they're going through that horror would understand why we're so excited about having a local dive team to shorten that time frame."
Carswell said that hooks are especially inefficient in rivers like the Flint, which are filled with rocks, stumps and other debris that could snag the hooks or hide a sunken body.
Firefighters will know at the commission meeting Tuesday if all of this can happen, the fire chief said. The nearly $60,000 tentatively approved will buy 10 sets of diving gear and training for 30 willing firefighters. Some additional hardware, including a special boat, will be needed as well, Carswell said, which will bring the total price tag to around $75,000. Finding volunteers for the team is no problem, Carswell said, with more than 30 firefighters ready to sign up.
"We got a tremendous response from our guys," he said. "It really blew me away as far as the sheer numbers of responses."
According to Carswell, participating firefighters will need to find the additional time for diver certification training within their normal schedules. Assuming final approval for the dive team, Carswell and Cravey are confident that operations could begin within six months.