"Block Training" VFD Boat / Emergencies




In my opinion an area often neglected is our boat operations, training and equipment. A recent upgrade with our boating equipment has taken us from the embarrassing (no longer using a ski rope to tie off with) stage to a "they look like they know what they are doing" stage. 
The last stage is training. We now need to know what we are doing when it comes to a boat rescue.

The first major task in any boat activity is getting the boat in the water. As it stands today (June 2012) the boat will be delivered to the waters edge via our Hummer. This is the worst vehicle to back a boat down a ramp due to its width. 
Boat trailers are generally wider than a vehicle or the fenders of a boat trailer are the same width as a vehicle. When launching the vehicle and boat are in a straight line and very little movement on the steering wheel is necessary to backup.

With our Hummer excessive back and forth movement with the steering wheel is necessary to keep straight due to constantly searching for the trailer.
If you use the driver side fender as a reference the Hummer and boat do not line up straight. (you curve left or right pending which fender you choose)
Not impossible but not easy and with out training we will look really bad on a call. During summer at a lake you know what happens next. Everyone will be there watching. During ice rescues not so many people.
With that being said our first task is to familiarize ourselves with our launch sites and discuss the different approaches. At each launch site the lay out is different but our launch procedure will be the same.

Boat Launches and Launching

(Section 1)

In the pictures below can you point out where the boat launches are and how do we get to each?

Do you know the deepest point of each lake? 

user posted image

Flint Lake Launching
To launch at Flint Lake you must disconnect the boat and reconnect at the waters edge. While on B crew we spent a couple of hours performing several different way to best launch a boat at this site. This is the best approach to launch at Flint Lake due to the lack of maneuverability.

Launching Recommended Procedure;
Pull the Hummer and boat on to Baker Rd (facing east), wait for personnel to disconnect boat. Personnel wheels boat to waters edge and unstraps the stern, lift motor into launch position, make visual check for plug, 2 rescue personnel enter boat, reconnect to hummer, disconnect bow strap, grab bow line, direct driver to back into the water. As the boat dislodges from the trailer hold on to the bow line until personnel in the boat gets the motor started.

user posted image
Loomis Lake Launching
(Rogers Lakewood)
Plenty of room to launch a boat. The problem is we will never know how busy the day will be prior to a launch or who is backing the boat that paticular day. We  still need to disconnect the boat (same recommendation as Flint Lake). Due to our limited experience and training, during an emergency the last thing we need to worry about is backing a boat. If we develop the same routine at each boat launch we will live up to our title as professional fire department.

What is the name of the little lake located off of Long Lake?

Can you get to the little pond off Long Lake?

user posted image
Long Lake Launching 
This is a tight launch ramp area. If there are no other truck and trailers we will have enough room to swing the hummer and boat to the launch ramp. Again disconnect and reconnect the boat.
Keep Engine up on the main road and have Rescue follow the Hummer and boat.  Again I recommend disconnecting/reconnecting trailer. Especially if it is a night launch. lt's a very dark area.

Spectacle Lake Launching

No designated launch site on the lake. We found in or around the picnic area a suitable area for a land launch. The ground is relatively flat at waters edge. A decision where to launch would best be made pending circumstances.

Boat Launching

Launching a boat can be very stressful if you do not believe me go to Portage/Michigan City Marinas and watch. You will notice two things, those who know how to launch a boat and those who do not.

The ones that know what they are doing do it so with out a word, inconspicuous, they are the well seasoned boaters, they know what they are doing.

Then there are the weekend warriors who take the boat out 4 to 5 time a summer. All I can say is stand back and watch the show. Eventually you will see husband and wife yelling, kids crying, strangers fighting, boats getting destroyed and the poor College/High School kid making $4.50 hr trying to calm things down.

As a crew get out and practice launching the recommended way. If you can find an easier way please forward the information.

Here are some mishaps at the dock. Lets not have someone catch us on video when launching during a rescue and look like any one of these people.


History of our Lakes

(Section 2)

The Valparaiso lakes lie on the Valparaiso moraine. The moraine runs around the southern rim of Lake Michigan, from Michigan to Illinois. The moraine was created during the Pleistocene ice age, 1.8 million to 11,000 years ago. It is a terminal moraine - at the southern end of where there were a series of glaciers which carried material south to their tip and then dumped it. This deposit or till contains - from smallest particles to largest - clay, silt, sand, gravel, pebbles and boulders. When the ice age ended the glaciers retreated north allowing vegetation to become established. By the process of succession taller plant species replaced shorter until we have today's forest.

The Valparaiso lakes are kettle lakes - water filled kettle shaped depressions - created by the melting of partially-buried very large blocks of ice. Although nowhere apparent on the moraine, because the till varies in depth from tens to a few hundred feet, beneath it lie many layers of bedrock. In those layers are recorded the events that occurred in the area that predate the Pleistocene period.

Flint Lake is a 98 acre lake fed by an underground spring located near the southwest side of the lake.
Long Lake is a 95 acre lake fed by the same underground system that feeds Flint, Bullseye, Spectacle, and Wauhob Lakes.
Wauhob Lake is a 21 acre lake
Bullseye Lake was measured in 1889 by a state geologist to be 200' deep. In 1912 the state had the lake measured in 16 different spots and found that the lake bottom slopes from all sides to a point about 3/4 of the way west, where it is fed by an underground river. Chemicals and red dye were poured into Bullseye Lake as a geological experiment. Within a few days the dye was visible in Flint, Long,
Mink and Wauhob Lakes. This verified the path of the underground river.
Spectacle Lake (& Loomis Lake) is a small but deep lake with a surface area of 12 acres. The lake is on the west side of the watershed and is in the St. Lawrence Basin. Spectacle Lake was referred to by early settlers as a "Kettle Lake because of its depth. In 1924 the Valparaiso Water Department decided to increase the area's water supp;y. The water department determined that if a pipline could be placed through the divide between Flint and Spectacle Lakes they could create a new man-made lake out of the overflow from Spectacle Lake. The pipline was installed and a dam was constructed at the west end of Spectacle Lake. As the water filled Spectacle Lake it overflowed into the large lowland area that lies south of the east end of the lake. The overflow createded the 55 acre Loomis Lake. This successful endeavour brings water from Flint Lake in the Mississippi Basin to Spectacle Lake in the St. Lawrence basin.
Moss Lake is a small lake (Camp Lawrence). Deep Lake is directly south of Moss Lake

Trim/Motor/Boat Terminology

(Section 3)


Trim is the angle of the motor in relation to the hull, as illustrated below. The ideal trim angle is the one in which the boat rides level, with most of the hull on the surface instead of plowing through the water.
Neutral trim Trimmed in Trimmed out
If the motor is trimmed out too far, the bow will ride too high in the water. With too little trim, the bow rides too low. The optimal trim setting will vary depending on many factors including speed, hull design, weight and balance, and conditions on the water (wind and waves).

Motor Terminology


Boat Terminology

Boating Videos


Boat Terminology Video

Boat Handling Video

Docking a Boat Video

Collision Advoidance

Basic Boat Knots

Boating Grand Round Questions
(Section 5)                                                                                  
Approved by the Idaho State Parks and Recreation

Below is a link that will take you to BoatU.S. Foundation Online Safety Course.

Complete the course by the end of November and submit a copy of your certificate to your Battalion Chief. 

The BoatUS Foundation's Online Course is the only free Online Boating Safety Course approved by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.

The BoatUS Foundation's Indiana Boating course consists of 6 lessons and a Final Exam. Each lesson has a 10-question quiz at the end. The Final exam is 75 questions and you must pass with with a score of 80% or better.

Link to course:

Fun Videos to watch (non training related)

Boats gone wild



Valparaiso F.D. Ice Rescues

Man survives plunge into Flint Lake

VALPARAISO: Valpo's rescue team credited with speedy response

CENTER TOWNSHIP -- A quick response by the members of the Valparaiso Fire Department Ice Rescue Team helped a Center Township man survive a plunge Saturday into the icy waters of Flint Lake.

Gregory O'Neil was listed in fair condition at Porter Memorial Hospital a couple hours after the early afternoon accident.

O'Neil had been ice fishing with his son just off Hill Crest beach at the north end of the lake when the ice broke beneath his feet and he slipped into the frigid waters below, said Porter County police Officer Jesse Klemz.

The son attempted to help his father by handing him the auger they had used to dig a hole in the ice.

"When that did not work, his son ran up here on shore yelling for help," Klemz said.

A passerby heard the boy and notified authorities.

The city Fire Department received the call at 12:29 p.m. and six minutes later, the ice rescue team had O'Neil out of the water and in a warm ambulance, said Valparaiso Fire Battalion Chief Robert Edgecomb.

"It was just that quick," he said.

Team member Morgan Hein used a sled equipped with pontoons to safely cross the ice and reach the point where O'Neil had slipped through, Edgecomb said. He removed O'Neil from the water and team members pulled the sled back to shore.

"As quick as he went out, he came back," Edgecomb said.

Alan Fix, an officer with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, who trains the ice rescue team, caught the end of the rescue and was impressed with what he saw.

"On the scale of 1 to 10, this was a 10," he said.

Fix was handed a chunk of the ice taken from the spot where O'Neil fell in and he measured it at 1 inch. The average measurement of the lake ice is 3 inches, he said, but it fluctuates from one spot to another.

O'Neil was not alone in ice fishing Saturday. Fix said he spent the day checking out those fishing on various lakes in the area. The Times

Valparaiso Rescue Sled

Materials and Specifications

Expanded polystyrene core with high density polyethylene covering

Pontoon Dimensions
Width 23", Length 89", Thickness 6.25"

Assembly Frame
Aircraft Angle Aluminum: .188" Thick

Polyvinyl Chloride: 1.5" Inside Diameter

Victim Harness
Polypropylene Webbing: Width 2", Length 52"

Storage Dimensions
Width 14", Height 38", Length 89"

Rescue Sled Demonstration
Video 1
Video 2


Rescue Alive Recommended 
Standard Operating Guidelines 
(This is not a Valparaiso adopted S.O.G)


PURPOSE: To establish guidelines and procedures for the safe and efficient conduct of ice and cold water rescue operations.

SCOPE: These procedures and guidelines will be used during and cold water or ice rescue operation within the department’s response area and on mutual aid calls to other departments.

PROCDEDURE: Upon receipt of an alarm for a cold water or ice rescue emergency, the department will respond with all available resources, including personnel, cold water rescue suits, water rescue rope and the Rescue Alive Sled with Water Rescue Jaws attached.

1. The senior officer or member on the scene will establish Incident Command (IC). The incident commander on the scene is responsible for the following actions.

a. Determine the number of victims, their condition and their last known location if they cannot be seen from shore.
b. Notify your dispatch center to establish radio control and the location of the command post.

2. Your communications center should notify the following immediately:

a. Notify mutual aid departments with special consideration given to those with equipment and training in cold water and ice resuce.
b. Local ambulance service and Advanced Life Support Personnel.
c. Nearest Hospital and the nearest Trauma Center with Life Flight capability.
d. Local police for crowd and traffic control.
e. Local or mutual aid dive teams.
f. Any local Ranger or Warden services with dive teams or equipment.
g. Any other services determined by the IC.

The IC will continue to direct the operation of local and mutual aid companies until relieved by a competent authority.

3. Safety of all personnel responding to the scene will be paramount.

Safety procedures will include by are not limited to the following:

a. These procedures are for the safety and protection of human life. Animal rescues are at the discretion of the IC and should only be attempted if the safety of rescuers can be assured. A Dog snare should be used.
b. All operations will be performed by trained personnel who are familiar with and physically capable of performing duties and tasks required.
c. Primary rescuers and back up personnel will be equipped with colder water rescue and or immersion suits. Whenever possible the primary rescuer using “Rescue Alive” should be equipped with the Sterns I-595 Ice Rescue Suit or equivalent and helmet. Back up personnel should wear I-595 type suits or immersion (gumby type) suits if I-595 suits are not available. Primary rescuer using Rescue Alive should leave hood down and wear helmet. This enhances hearing and protects head from injury.
d. All personnel working on shore within 15 feet of the water should be equipped with a type III USCG approved PFD.
e. Tether lines will be attached to the front D ring harness of the Ice Rescue Suit of all personnel engaged in GO or CONTACT rescues. Appropriate shore crew will control tether lines and ensure that ropes, carabiners, zippers are good to go.
f. Tethering procedures for Rescue Alive will include of one red rope (minimum tensile strength of 2000 lbs) attached to the front “D” ring of the Ice Rescue Suit. Use the simple rhyme “Red To The Sled”. This is called the TWO line system. When it is necessary to travel further than the two line system will allow you must connect the two lines together with a carabiner and one end to the sled with a carabiner. A separate length of rope may be used with a loop on each end to tether the rescuer to the sled or by measuring approx. on arms length and a half from the end of the rope, place a loop at that point and using a carabiner attach that loop to the tether hitch of the sled. The end of the rope now attaches to the front “D” ring of the Ice Rescue Suit. This method tethers both the rescuer and the sled to the shore. This method is referred to as the ONE line system.
g. Primary and back up rescuers should be equipped with “Pick of Life” ice awls for their own use or for use by the victim.
h. Each person involved in the rescue operation should have a back up person to take over if needed.
i. Rest and medical monitoring of all personnel in a warm vehicle or shelter should be provided at regular intervals. The EMS team leader or safety officer will declare any rescuer unfit to continue and will notify the IC.
j. Adequate lighting and flashlights capable of hands free operations should be available for night operations.
k. Shore crew should obtain a water sample at the scene. This sample will be transported to the medical facility with the victim for possible evaluation by medical personnel.

4. Initial response of fire & rescue personnel will include the vehicle carrying “Rescue Alive” and all associated equipment followed by at least one vehicle for lighting and support functions. Two personnel are required for the safe use of “Rescue Alive”. However when it is possible a minimum of 10 (ten) personnel should be utilized for optimum safety as follows: INCIDENT COMMANDER, SAFETY OFFICER, PRIMARY RESCURER, SECONDARY RESCURER, TWO MAN BACKUP TEAM, FOUR MAN SHORE CREW.

At no time will any team member attempt a GO or CONTACT rescue without proper backup, a cold water suit and tether line to shore.


Keep communicating with the victim throughout the attempt. Your first question must be: "ARE YOU ALONE?"

Regardless of training or equipment each rescuer must be prepared to deal with a personal emergency…



2. Ice Rescue Suits..minimum of 2 for primary & backup rescuer

3. Water Rescue Jaws

4. Water Rescue Rope..enough to cover your response areas (min 2 X 300 feet)

5. Carabiners 2 per length of rope plus extras.

6. Pick of Life..1 set per rescuer at a minimum

7. Water Rescue Helmets..1 for primary and 1 for secondary rescuer

8. PFDs..enough for shore crew, safety officer and IC’

9. Water proof gloves..for shore crew and rope handlers

10. Water sample bottle..save sample for possible medical evaluation

11. Lighting..for scene and personal use.

12. Throw Bags..1 for primary and 1 for secondary rescuers

13. Stokes Basket or Backboard

14. Ice Screws.. for tethering personnel or equipment on safe ice

15. Dog Snare..Never make physical contact with the animal and never leave the safety of the Rescue Alive platform in animal rescues

This is a minimum list of equipment needed to perform a safe rescue. There is no substitute for training in a variety of ice conditions and proper pre planning. RESCUE ALIVE is only a tool and will perform as well as the personnel that are trained in its use. These SOG’s are provided so that you may use them as an outline for your own department and are not intended to replace your own SOG’s and proper training.





































 The RESCUE GL is responsible for the tactical operations of the surface/ice rescue. The RESCUE GL determines the action plan and insures the plan is implemented.

 The rescue teams need to know the PLAN, huddle-up if that is the only way to communicate the PLAN.

 Key things the RESCUE GL should insure:

 -Overall rescue management               -Secure witnesses or reporting party

-Designation of team leaders              -Determine location, number, and condition

-Coordination of efforts                       of victim(s)

-Communications management           -Determine RESCUE vs RECOVERY mode

-Triangulate the victim(s) location 


 The Incident Safety Officer is responsible for overall scene safety. The Safety Officer must identify all scene hazards and potential problems. In addition, the Safety Officer shall insure that all personnel working at the site are wearing all necessary protective devices and perform operations in a safe manner.

 Key things the Safety Officer should ensure:

 -Hazards & utilities identified/communicated

-Rescue personnel in protective ensemble: Helmet, gloves, eye protection, boots, coveralls

 or work clothes (preferably not bunkers), and PFD’s

-Rope systems checked and double-checked

-Personnel working in “safe” zones

-Minimum number of people working on the “edge” and tethered

-Extrication personnel not being overworked

-Rehab all personnel 


 The SUPPORT TEAM LEADER manages the SUPPORT TEAM. The SUPPORT TEAM handles the accessory tasks around the confined space scene:

 -Prepares the boat

-Assists in the triangulation of victim(s)

-Fireline the perimeters for crowd control

-Identify the area hazards

-Area lighting support (sometimes it’s dark outside)

-Weather protection for site



-Miscellaneous support as directed by the RESCUE GL


 The RIGGING TEAM LEADER manages the rigging team. The RIGGING TEAM LEADER assists the RESCUE GL to determine the system(s) used for the rescue. The RIGGING TEAM LEADER is responsible for all the rope systems used during the rescue.  The RIGGING TEAM LEADER approves all BFR’s, if needed, and safety checks all the rope systems.


 The ENTRY TEAM LEADER is responsible for the safety and management of the ENTRY TEAM members. The ENTRY TEAM LEADER insures the ENTRY TEAM is prepared and coordinates the actions of the ENTRY TEAM during the water/ice rescue.

 All communications between the ENTRY TEAM members and the RIGGING TEAM are handled through the ENTRY TEAM LEADER. The ENTRY TEAM LEADER controls all the haul actions.

 The ENTRY TEAM LEADER will ensure:

 -ENTRY TEAM members are prepared and properly equipped.

-Coordination of communications between ENTRY TEAM and RIGGING TEAM


-Dry suit w/fins

-Floatation tagline

-Light source

-Cutting tool (knife/Leatherman tool)

-Rescue Sled


 The STAGING OFFICER organizes the equipment resource area in a location easily accessible to the water/ice rescue site. Typically, the STAGING OFFICER will lay a tarp to designate the equipment resource area. All apparatus carry personal floatation devices (PFD’s), throw bags, life-rings and rope rescue equipment. The boat and dry-suits are carried on the truck. These equipment pieces/kits should be brought to the equipment resource area to be organized for ease of deployment.


 -Dry-suits w/fins                                             -Boat & SCBA bottles

-Throw bags                                        -Life-ring

-300’ floatation rope                           -fireline

-150’ rope bags                                   -300’ rope bags

-Harnesses                                           -Saddlebags

-Rope equipment bags                                    -Rope accessory bags

-Lighting (lanterns, etc.)                     -Area lighting (floods, generators)

-Hand-tools (pikes, rubbish hooks)


 COMMAND is established. Addition resources are requested. COMMAND will then assign RESCUE GL and a SAFETY OFFICER. RESCUE GL will assign the team leaders.

 Contact with the victim(s) must be made promptly. The safe zones/edge will then be identified (normally 15’ from the water’s edge).

 Personal protective equipment for all rescuers will consist of gloves and work uniform. Rescuers that work within 15’ of the water’s edge shall, in addition, wear a PFD. Rescuers that enter the ice/water shall wear a dry suit w/tagline. Rescuers that use the boat may wear work uniform and PFD’s (if winter conditions, dry suit). Bunker gear should not be worn, if possible.

 The initial rescuers will don PFD’s and bring aid kits and a throw bag to the incident site. Contact with the victim(s) should occur immediately.

 If the victim(s) is/are within throwbag range, deploy the throwbag or throw disk to effect the rescue.

 If the victim(s) is/are not in throw bag range, RESCUE GL will assemble a boat team for the rescue. 

 The boat is equipped with 2 rescuers, a PFD for each victim, weighted markers, anchors and the oars. In the forward storage area there is extra life preservers for the rescued victims.

 For launching at designated launch ramps follow the prescribed launching method.

 Two rescuers will then paddle to the victim(s) to affect the rescue.

As a last resort, if the boat is inoperative, rescuers may enter the ice/water wearing dry suits to affect the rescue. Members who will be wearing the dry suits shall be “comfortable” with the use of the suits. The dry suits are donned and floatation tagline attached to the front .

 For every rescuer who enters the water there shall be one back-up rescuer standing-by, in the “ready mode.”

 The ENTRY TEAM LEADER (who will normally manage the tagline) will safety check the ENTRY TEAM MEMBERS and direct all their actions. The ENTRY TEAM MEMBER will swim out to affect the rescue.

 When the victim is secured by the ENTRY TEAM MEMBER, a signal will be given to the ENTRY TEAM LEADER and the haul team will pull the ENTRY TEAM MEMBER and victim to shore.

 During fair weather conditions, a member may enter the warm water to effect a rescue wearing station uniform attire and PFD. This member will be attached to a tagline. A second member will tend the tagline from the shore.