Water rescue training: important even in dry regions

RAPID CITY, S.D. – The Rapid City/Pennington County (RC/PC) Water Rescue Team met at the Rapid City YMCA Thursday for their annual skills review.

A Rapid City Pennington County Water Rescue Team diver performs underwater exercises as part of the team's annual skills review. Photo Date: Jan. 10. 2019.

A RC/PC Water Rescue Team diver performs underwater exercises.

They were exercising their underwater rescue and survival skills, as well as their competence in using underwater rescue and survival gear. The gear can weigh more than 40 pounds, which is weightless when underwater, but can hamper one’s ability to move. The training is a grueling four-hour ordeal.

Calen Maningas, team lead for the RC/PC Water Rescue Team noted that the Black Hills region offers water-borne activities all year. People enjoy the area’s picturesque lakes and streams through all four seasons.

“We go into open water risk in the summer,” Maningas said. “A lot of people go to the lakes. There’s swimming in those areas. In the winter we have lots of recreation on the ice.

“And in those areas there are risks of falling through the ice,” Maningas continued. “Whether it’s surface or sub-surface, whether they have to dive for them or it’s a surface rescue.”

The Black Hills are also known for being a rather dry part of the country. But that presents its own water rescue hazards.

Divers check their gear before their next exercise.

In places near oceans and large lakes, or where rainfall is abundant, residents are accustomed to the dangers of the water. Preparation for them is a more regular activity.

In the Black Hills, water hazards can be few and far between, but when they do happen, they catch people off-guard. 2018 was no stranger to flash-flooding.

“Our big risk here is we may have in our community people who are unaware of the water threat until it instantly happens,” Maningas said. “Flooding, you know the flood of ’72, it just instantly happened. We had a flood here at the early spring of last year of 2018. I could tell you just during the day people probably weren’t expecting a water risk at all.”

During the Water Rescue Team’s skills review, the team members are subjected to exercises of endurance, and even sensory deprivation, where their vision is blocked.

But those stresses prepare them for water rescue, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

‘”We want our guys to be exposed to these higher levels of stress so when it really does happen they’re prepared for it,” Maningas said.

The RC/PC Water Rescue Team is made up of members from the Rapid City Fire and Police Departments, the Pennington County Sheriff’s Office, and Pennington County Search and Rescue.

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