Isanti County Safety and Rescue receives boost in water rescue, recovery missions

The news article can be found below the photo slideshow. Click on any photo below to begin slideshow. Photos by Jon Tatting

Many of the 16 volunteer men and women from the Isanti County Safety and Rescue team used its new rapid deployment craft in a river rescue exercise Saturday, May 3, in a bay off of the Rum River in Cambridge.

The training featured diving equipment and a rapid deployment craft, which the responders found to be light in weight, fast to inflate and simple to handle around areas that otherwise may be hard to reach or even dangerous for a more traditional boat. Certified trainers passed on their knowledge, and the responders listened, asked questions and acted along the way.

On April 16, the Isanti County Board of Commissioners authorized the sheriff’s office to purchase the craft and equipment from a portion of donation dollars totaling $4,500. Chief Deputy Chris Caulk credited the Arctic Plunge Committee and various townships for generating the dollars, which went toward a variety of areas within the department.

The reason Safety and Rescue is moving forward with the vision of water rescue is so it can respond as quick as it can to people, whether it be in a farm pond to a river to the biggest lake in the county. The rapid deployment craft will help Safety and Rescue cut down on recovery missions with faster response times to rescues, and it’s one more tool that will keep the responders safe and effective in water or on ice, Caulk explained.

Before the new craft, Safety and Rescue had a bigger, 14-foot boat called a Zodiac that worked well in open water. But it had its limits of where it could allow responders to safely reach and the time it took for them to get there.

Though the boat will remain with Safety and Rescue, the buzz is all about the new, year-round craft and its abilities in the local river ways, for instance, that have grown especially swollen with much debris to maneuver around this spring.

Bob Peichel, of the Safety and Rescue team, coordinated the river rescue training near a residence off Rum River Drive in the city’s Goldenwood neighborhood. Responders took turns wearing dry suits, hauling the rapid deployment craft down a steep path and entering the water with paddles and a team on shore to guide them.

The craft does not head out alone, as its tethered with about 500 feet of rope that can be let out or reeled in by hand by the team on shore.

Meanwhile, others learned how straps can come in handy in emergency situations, and they practiced tossing various rope devices — including one that is thrown like a Frisbee — which also can save lives on the water.

“It’s not always the fanciest of tools that are needed, especially with the Safety and Rescue budget,” said Peichel, noting the unit will take advantage of any tips or cost-effective resources or tools.

Caulk said that with the craft, responders should be able to complete a mission in minutes to a half-hour.

“Someone could be hanging onto ice or a tree, and that boat can sneak right to it,” he said.

The safety of the responders is an important issue, too.

“We won’t do anyone any good if we don’t get there safely,” Caulk said. “If they aren’t safe, then people aren’t safe.”

He said the department is always looking to expand with new techniques, training methods and equipment.

Safety and Rescue, member recruitment

In 2013, the Isanti County Safety and Rescue team logged at least 3,670 volunteer hours, including time spent on emergency calls, events, patrol, training, meetings, administration and maintenance.

The team is looking for members who would like to support its local law enforcement departments by assisting with medical calls, traffic accidents, storm- and weather-related emergencies and event security.

The team consists of members from all walks of life including retired firefighters, retired military personnel, parents or family of people in law enforcement, nurses, first responders, emergency medical technicians, former licensed officers and many who just want to serve their community.

Good candidates are those who are community-service oriented and committed to completing the training requirements and serving a minimum of three to five years and are able to understand and work within a chain of command.

Also helpful are people with backgrounds in public service, including firefighting, security work and medical backgrounds.

Within the first year of service, Safety and Rescue members receive extensive training and most of the necessary clothing and equipment needed.

A list of requirements and an application for the Isanti County Safety and Rescue team can be found at via the Safety and Rescue link.

“We are 100 percent volunteer; we are kind of a hidden service,” Peichel said. “We are it in the county for many emergencies. Many of these guys (will respond to an emergency) all night and then have to go to their regular jobs the next morning.”

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