Swift Water and Dive Rescue Team
The SFD Swift Water and Dive Rescue Team, located at Engine Company 6, was formed to provide the means necessary to safely rescue citizens who have been trapped or injured in the surrounding waterways. Approximately 1,000 miles of waterways surround the City of Stockton. These waterways are used year round by boaters and during the summer months the numbers can increase to the hundreds on any given day.
The Water Rescue program has expanded considerably since its inception in 1993. The Team has grown from a few Swift Water Technicians with limited surface rescue capabilities, to a fully operational Surface and Dive Team with the ability to provide advanced cardiac life support.
All Water Rescue Team members are trained to the minimum standard of Swift Water Rescue Technician I. The Team currently has three Dive Rescue International Swift Water Instructors. Many of the Team members are currently upgrading to Swift Water Rescue Team 2 and Swift Water Rescue Team Instructor. Most of the swift water training takes place in the American River near Sacramento, which is just 45 minutes from downtown Stockton. This river offers a variety of training possibilities from Class I rapids to Class 4 rapids. The Team takes frequent training trips to this river and has spent numerous hours on the water. A full compliment of swift water equipment is available including; ropes, hardware, an inflatable boat with 30-horse power motor, live bait PFDs, wetsuits, and river boards.
Each member on the Team is also trained to the Dive Rescue International standard of Dive Rescue 1, and many are trained to Dive Rescue 2. All Team members must first go through Public Safety Diver, which is taught by one of the three Public Safety Scuba Instructors. Then they are brought up to the Dive Rescue I level, which is taught by one of the three Dive Rescue I Instructors. The Dive Team members are then required to maintain a minimum of 12 dives per year. These training dives are made in the Delta waterways and at the University of the Pacific Aquatics Center. This Aquatics Center has become the home pool for the Stockton Water Rescue Team. The University staff and the Stockton Fire Department have an excellent working relationship and the pool allows a controlled environment with depths up to 13 feet. Occasionally, the Team will travel to other locations for open water training. These locations include the many lakes and rivers within the area and also include trips to Monterey Bay, California. Many of these dives are made with both rescue equipment and recreational gear. These dives serve as a relaxation for many and help to build Team pride and trust.
Prior to any of this training, Water Rescue Team candidates must first go through a rigorous screening process that includes, a written exam based on the Water Rescue Standard Operating Procedures, a physical exam with swim tests that requires them to be in the water for 60-90 minutes, and an oral board by current Water Rescue Team members. If the candidate passes all these phases, he or she is then taught the standards to be Swift Water Rescue Technician 1. Successful candidates will then be evaluated to see if they will be accepted for further training.
The Water Rescue Team is staffed 24 hours a day with a 3-person crew. The crew is assigned to both Engine 6 and the Water Rescue Unit. The Team has a support vehicle, known as Water Rescue 6. It is a 1996 Chevy 1 ton heavy-duty crew cab. The vehicle carries 4 sets of complete diving gear with additional tanks and a surface supplied air cart, an inflatable boat with a rigid hull mounted on top of the vehicle, and all of the support equipment for a surface or dive rescue.
The Stockton Fire Department has standardized the swift water and dive gear; personal gear is not used while on duty. The Team is using Viking dry suits and Scuba Pro wet suits, the Interspiro AGA full-faced mask with GILL snorkel, redundant supply valve (RSV), and Mark 7 hard wire communications. All buoyancy compensators (BC's), regulators, and gauges are Scuba Pro. The Water Rescue Team also has training AGAs with the wireless Buddy Communications. A surface supplied air cart with 200 feet of hose is available in case a diver becomes trapped and needs an unlimited supply of air until rescued. The Team also has a gas powered SCUBA cylinder filling station, capable of filling both low pressure and high-pressure cylinders.
The Stockton Fire Water Rescue Team averages 30-35 responses a year. These calls are for both surface rescues and dive rescues. The team will respond with two members dressed in full dive gear and two members in support positions. While in route to the call, the two members in dive gear will decide who is primary and who is back up. The back up diver will then take the roll as primary surface rescuer. Once on scene, the Team will determine if the need to dive exists or if it will be a surface rescue. The Stockton Fire Water Rescue Team deals only in a rescue mode, they have two volunteer dive teams available to handle recovery. The response times, within the city limits, are usually 5-10 minutes from call to entry into the water and calls out of Stockton can vary from 10-20 minutes.
The standard response for a water rescue call includes Water Rescue 6, a Battalion Chief, and Truck 3, the Technical Rescue truck. The Water Rescue Team works closely with the Technical Rescue Team. These two Teams, along with the Hazardous Materials Team, make up the Stockton Fire Department Special Operations Team and many members are crossed trained in all disciplines. The Stockton Fire Department has the luxury of being a permanent State Certified Rescue Systems and Confined Space training site with multiple state certified instructors.
The Stockton Fire Water Department Rescue Team is committed to improving their ability to serve the citizens of Stockton. If you would like know more about the Stockton Fire Department Water Rescue Team, please contact Stockton Fire Department Administration or send correspondence to Company 6.
This City of Stockton web page last reviewed on --- 12/30/2013