ORANGE BEACH, Ala. (WKRG) – The United States Coast Guard is flying high above Orange Beach Wednesday, training firefighters for medical emergencies and rescues in the Gulf of Mexico.
“It’s a little bit nerve racking for some because they’ve never done this type of work before,” said Orange Beach Fire Rescue’s Chief of Training, Chance Ard.
Orange Beach Fire Rescue is taking advantage of the slower winter months to practice this week, simulating a water rescue by boat with the help of air support from above. Ard says in some cases the department has responded to boaters in distress 50 miles out and every second is critical.
“Fishing vessels they can hold up to 50 people, so if you have one of those go down you’re going to need a lot more assets to be able to get the victims out of the water,” he explained.
It’s a challenging task, working together with the Coast Guard in tough conditions as the helicopter hovers above.
“They’re 30-40 feet above the boat and hurricane force type winds coming down on the boat, so they have to maintain stability on the deck and keep from being blown off the boat actually,” said Ard.
It’s the first year for the joint training, but this likely will become a semi annual exercise. “The guys were a little bit nervous yesterday, but after doing it they were very comfortable with it. It wasn’t as bad as they expected it to be,” continued Ard.
The training will continue Thursday.