Members of the Mentor Fire Department are trained to respond to any emergency that may occur, however, several choose to excel in responding to special situations. For instance, water rescue is something that is practiced annually by the entire department. This training teaches first responding companies how to perform many life-saving skills from the shore, or on the surface of the water. Performing rescue diving, however, takes an enormous commitment of time and training. The Mentor Fire Department, therefore, has three “Special Teams” to respond to the dangerous, yet less frequent emergencies that could occur.
Technical Rescue Team
The Technical Rescue Team consists of 22 members of the Mentor Fire Department who have taken extra training in confined space, trench collapse, and rope rescue. The team drills once a month with each drill covering a specific area of discipline. Over the course of a year, each discipline receives an equal amount of training time.
Once a year, a combined drill with the Water Rescue Team is held to allow both teams the opportunity to work together and to see how one will enhance the function of the other. The drill is conducted in a rapid water situation at a nearby river. Trench rescue operations are held at various sites in the city. Shoring practices and interaction with personnel from the Public Works Department are the main focus of these drills. A Confined Space class is held periodically to revisit the techniques required for this discipline. The Haz Mat team also attends this class so both teams can function together at emergency scenes.
Hazardous Materials Team
The Hazardous Materials Team (Haz-Mat) is a specialized group of department members who have received specific training in order to become certified Hazardous Material Technicians. Team members have the ability to research, identify and perform risk analysis prior to entry into hazardous areas to mitigate the particular hazard. Each trained member completes annual required continuing education to recognized standards of OSHA 1910.120 and NFPA 472.
Monthly training drills are conducted both within the department and in cooperation with the Lake County Hazard Intervention Team (H.I.T.). The H.I.T. consists of members from several fire departments within the county, all of which are certified Haz-Mat Technicians. These drills improve the proficiency of each member and provide the opportunity to work together to prepare for both small and large-scale incidents. The scope of training has expanded to include terrorist activities such as bioterrorism and other weapons of mass destruction. Also, the team trains with both city and county explosive ordinance device teams.
Goals for the team are to continue to work with H.I.T. and city and county E.O.D. to insure preparedness for all Haz-Mat related emergencies. Our goal is to build a database for the handling of Haz-Mat emergencies. By combining hands-on training with good data collection, the team is committed to being as prepared as possible for potential hazardous materials incidents.
Mentor Water Rescue
The Mentor Water Rescue consists of 14 divers who are internationally certified in basic and advanced SCUBA, search and recovery, underwater investigation, ice diving, and Dive Master. Members of the Water Rescue train actively throughout the year on a monthly basis, regardless of weather conditions. Training scenarios have included an actual car submerged in water with two mannequins strapped inside the vehicle; an overturned boat with a victim; and ice diving to recover evidence from the bottom of a lake.
The Water Rescue provides demonstrations at various public events; assists at pool sessions; and provides water rescue training for all fire department shifts in the proper use of throw bags, cold water survival suits, and the use of personal flotation devices. The Mentor Dive Team has been featured in ice rescue stories on television, as well as in local newspapers. This has been beneficial in educating the public about the dangers of venturing out onto a surface which appears to be frozen, but is not.
The Water Rescue Team has used recent improvements in technology to not only improve the capabilities of the rescuers, but also provide a higher level of safety. New Gates dry suits, an Ocean Technology underwater communications system, as well as an underwater camera are three such advances. The camera allows crews at the surface to monitor divers under water, or take a “quick look” before entering the water.
During the cold winter months, divers train by ice diving using dry suits, Gumby suits and throw bags. Partnerships and training are continuously underway with the US Coast Guard, Ohio Division of Watercraft, as well as other fire departments from Lorain to the Pennsylvania line. The dive team is also involved in training and response to “hull searches” which involves underwater inspection for explosive or other terrorist type devices.