The Alexander City Fire Department is training more people to add to its dive team.
Members of the department spent time at the city pool to get acclimated to working under water, something fire chief Reese McAlister wanted before the fire fighters with to get scuba certified.
“You never know how they will act when they get in the water and go under,” McAlister said. “This gives everyone a chance to see how things actually are underwater.”
The goal of the training sessions was to get the new divers familiar with scuba equipment, learn a little about water rescues and make sure the prospective dive team members know what they are getting into.
“We wanted to make sure they felt comfortable before they went to school,” McAlister said. “I got budgeted to send six to school. This way they know a little more about what to expect in the process.”
The department has had a dive team for a while but a drowning last year renewed McAlister’s commitment to having a well-versed dive team in the fire department.
“As a department we strive to save people’s lives,” McAlister said. “You know when you are called out on a missing person in the water, chances are not great. I saw first last year the closure a family got after we recovered their loved one.”
Helping with missing persons in or around water is not the only thing the fire department’s dive team is called to the scene for. It also trains to work with divers from the police department to recover evidence dumped in waterways.
The new scuba training class in Montgomery will finish in July and McAlister hopes it will help relieve the pressure on long-term dive team members.
“We are short on numbers,” McAlister said. “When these guys get trained up, it will allow us to rotate people through on-call status so we aren’t calling on the same people time and again.”
The dive team works with the Alexander City Police Department and the Alexander City Tallapoosa County Rescue Squad, and the Kellyton Volunteer Fire Department has firefighters who help with calls when needed. It is something Kellyton fire chief Jerry Sewell is proud of because he never knows how many of the volunteers will be available.
“It gives us more options when we have an incident in Coosa County,” Sewell said.
Kellyton has two firefighters who are going to the scuba class and trained with Alexander City in the pool this week as well. Last year, Kellyton had to respond twice.
McAlister said the dive teams are valuable but ultimately hopes the team doesn’t have to get called out.
“Unfortunately this time of year there is a higher chance of drowning with summer weather,” McAlister said. “We are ready to do it, but I hope we never have to recover another body.”