Valley Water Rescue

Training and rescue techniques

We train outdoors every month of the year so that we will be prepared for rescues in any type of weather conditions. Our training revolves around the types of conditions we could see during a call-out.

In the spring and fall, we focus on ice rescue techniques. This training uses
special equipment to reach victims when we must get across weak and thin ice to assist them. In winter months, we focus on ice diving by training in local lakes and rivers. Divers go under the ice-covered lakes to practice navigating in the waters below.
We have trained at temperatures as low as 30 degrees below zero. This training prepares us to avoid equipment problems that arise in the extreme cold and under the ice.

In the summer months, we train in all environments, including swift water and blackwater.

Our training has many components. We include classroom, pool, and outdoor environments. Our training is designed
by members on the team who serve on the training committee. Training topics are decided by environmental conditions,
 team needs, and by reviewing past training to cover weak points of the team. All team members must attend at least
66% of all training exercises to remain an active member of the team;
those who don't are put on probation until training requirements are met. These training requirements are designed to ensure the diver's safety, as well as that of
his teammates.

At a rescue scene

Valley Water Rescue works in conjunction with all other agencies responding to an emergency. Local fire departments are in control of all operations and use the dive team when the need arises. All local fire departments are trained in water rescue;  we are a "tool" or an extension of their operation.

Before we dive
Our divers never go in the water until a strict set off guidelines and conditions are met. Just as firemen never rush into a burning building, we don't rush into the water. Before we enter the water, we need to have a primary diver (diver that enters the water), a back-up diver (a diver ready to enter the water in case of any problems encountered in the dive), and also a 90% diver (a diver that is 90% dressed and ready to back up the other divers). This system ensures safety and ensures there is enough divers to handle any difficulties encountered. Each diver will also have a tender. They will help the diver get ready and run shore operations.

For safety reasons, we limit our divers' time in the water to 20 minutes at a time--this is the amount of time that the divers' reserve air supply would be adequate to assist them if they experience any difficulties. Difficulties could include becoming entangled in debris such as fishing line, trees, and items dumped into the such as water barbed wire, rebar and vehicles. Other difficulties could involve zero visibility, swift water, ice conditions (equipment freezing up), and hypothermia.

Searching the water
The type of search pattern we use at a scene varies, but is usually a "sweep" pattern that runs between two fixed markers. This allows us to cover a specific area, and ensures we don't miss anything. Circular patterns may be used sometimes, but they won't work well in currents (divers would have to fight the current and the pattern would lose its integrity). Other factors in determining a search pattern are whether the operation is going to be shore-based or boat-based, type of current, visibility, rescue or recovery mode, weather conditions, size of the item or person being searched for, point where the item or person was last seen, and number of divers available. All these area's will be factored in to give us the best options to be as fast and efficient as possible.

We operate in "rescue mode" until local EMS and medical direction declares that too much time has expired for someone to be saved. Usually, there is hope for survival if someone is rescued within an hour of going under the water.

When there is no longer a hope that the missing person could be saved, we switch to to "recovery mode". This is a slower and more methodical way of searching for the victim.

We will search in the rescue mode after dark, but for our safety, we call off night searches once they reach the recovery mode. We will return at first light to continue searching for the victim.