By Peter Zuniga, Correspondent
The Killeen and Fort Hood Fire Departments teamed up on Monday to begin a few days of joint training on flood and swift water boat operations. The training was held below the Belton Dam at Miller Springs Park.
On Monday morning, the waters were turbulent at the training site, as each of the trainees fitted into their dry suits. The area was particularly thick with fog.
Justin Todd, of the Killeen Fire Department was able to explain parts of the training. “We always emphasize to train with your dry suits on, because that’s how you’re going to operate. Practice how you play.” Dry suits are much like the wet suits used by divers, only with more thermal protection.
“They’re going to put the boats in the water,” Todd said, “and they’re gonna do a really quick safety drive, and just go up the channel.”
Later on, they would search for discarded fishing lines, dangerous tree limbs overhanging the water, and let every member of both departments get comfortable with driving the boats.
Eventually, they worked with victim pick-up and also crew overboard situations. Regarding crew overboard situations, Todd said, “That’s a little tricky, because usually we’ll run two people in a boat, and if somebody falls out, then the driver of the boat has to really maneuver in a particular way, because these boats like to come up. It’s all about weight distribution.”
Todd just recently came back from assisting with Hurricane Matthew, and has much experience with water boat rescue. “What inspired this [the joint training] is just the historical floods that we’ve had in this area, in Killeen, Fort Hood, Belton, Temple,” Todd said.
Later, he added, “When we talk about swift water, it’s a low frequency-high risk operation…It’s a very dangerous operation to partake in, so keeping up on those low frequency-high risk operations is very important.”
According to Todd, there is a high risk that “sixty percent of all fatalities in swift water are would-be rescuers or good samaritans.”
As far as the joint training goes, Todd explained, “…if there’s a flood somewhere in Fort Hood, then we’ll go with them to the incident, and vice versa. If there’s something going on in Killeen, and it’s a big flood, they’ll come to us as well. And so, with that, we can put a boat in the water to start our operations, and they come in to Killeen, and they are our safety boat.”
This type of joint training has been happening the past few years, and continues to build a tighter-knit workflow between the two departments.