Monday, January 31, 2011

Seal Sitting Season - Say that three times fast....

Over the last few years, numerous members of the First Aid Squad - divers and EMTs alike - have undergone training as Stranding Volunteers for the Marine Mammal Stranding Center, and it's been coming in handy a lot recently. While at the first aid building this morning, the Police Department AND the Marine Mammal Stranding Center called us at the exact same time for one of what could be one of many seal spottings this winter. Four Squad members immediately headed to the Maryland Avenue beach at the south end of Point Pleasant to investigate. Two police officers had arrived on scene ahead of us and were keeping beachcombers away from a harbor seal hauled up above the waterline.

We approached the seal slowly, took cell phone pictures from various angles, and e-mailed them to MMSC for evaluation. They contacted Flo back, who further relayed our behavioral observations. It was determined that this young female did not seem to need any assistance; she just seemed to be chilling out in the sun.

Our job at that point was to seal sit, keeping passerbys at least 100 feet back and providing a little education. Everyone was interested to learn that harbor seals ARE common in our area, and we should expect them to haul out regularly during the winter months. According to MMSC, the greatest number of potential stranding calls in NJ do originate from Ocean County. The field guide provided to us by MMSC was also a great resource to share. It even includes a picture of the seal's jaws, so people didn't need too much convincing to stay back!

After two hours, with tide working up the beach, the seal shimmied back into the water, spent a few minutes close to shore, and then disappeared.

Yup, Seal Sitting Season has begun. We're glad that the only thing this one needed was to be left alone.

To learn more about the Marine Mammal Stranding Center, visit .

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Ice Training ~2011~

On Sunday, 1/16/11, the Point Pleasant Beach First Aid Squad - divers and EMTs - had a very productive Ice Rescue/Dive drill. For some long-time members, this was an annual refresher, but for several newer members this was a first-time exposure to these scenarios. We don't necessarily get ice thick enough to train on/under every winter, so the last few weeks of cold weather turned out to be a blessing.

We used a bayside cove off of Bergen Avenue in Mantoloking for the drill. Lt. Barcus, former diver and Liaison with Mantoloking PD, stopped by and made sure that the local authorities and residents were aware that this was a drill.

On arrival, Chief Nesley first reviewed how to evaluate ice conditions and getting on safely. Our drysuited divers then went to test the extent of walkable ice. (You could, of course, easily discover this by just walking until you break through; it was walkable two steps before that point.) Alternately, we practiced sensing the first flexing of the ice, and then got down on hands and knees, and then spread out flat to distribute weight and stay on top of things as long as possible.

Once in, everyone then practiced pulling him/herself and a victim out of the hole. This is not easy when the edge continues to break underneath the weight of two people. We then demonstrated that a human chain is an effective remedy for this, as is use of a tethered backboard. Asst. Chief Melo also presented patient care protocols once any victim is removed from the ice.

We then prepared for scuba dives under the ice. We started out with the standard triangular entry hole (which came out very neat this time). Seven divers then took turns being harnessed, tethered, and tendered under the ice. Our line pull system is a simple but effective means of communciation between diver and tender, so we practiced delivering instructions very deliberately.

Tom T was first in and experienced some navigation issues on his first ice foray since last year, but his second assigned course went much more smoothly. Getting comfortable under the ice takes time, as first timer Dave found out next. Doug and Tom C took their turns with smooth results, although the vis by the hole was getting murky.

On Sue's run, she'd been instructed to come up to the bottom of the ice in the middle of the cove so that Chief Nesley could show everyone topside what a diver's bubble trail looks like through the ice. However, the ice was too thick and frosty to much make out the diver, but they cut a fresh hole big enough to fit a head out. Sue once again proved that you shouldn't expect to be able to chisel your way out from down below with a knife (Newton was right - equal and opposite reactions). Finally, Eric and Chet took their turns, and we all wondered how they navigate so well under these conditions. All the while, Flo stayed topside with EMTs Jen, Max, Tom G, and Captain Meany, briefing them on what the divers were doing and the assistance they might need upon exit.

Having spent over 3 hours on and under the ice, most of us had cold hands, but everyone (wet and dry) felt that this was very productive. You never know what you'll get a real ice call, but we feel better prepared to respond.


Sunday, January 09, 2011

Dry Suit Training.....

For our divers, readiness for a winter water emergency includes not only having the gear and skills, but also simply being acclimated to the season. We all need to be dressed properly and then be ready to function underwater. We used Sunday, January 9, 2011, as a training day of all sorts: cold water, drysuit, sinker collection, fundraiser prep, surface support, and compressor operation recertification.

We had a good crew turnout (8 divers, 5 surface support personnel), and everyone one of us had to deal with the cold weather and significant wind chill factor. The Fisherman's Flea Market rolls around next month, so we'd planned on doing some serious sinker collecting in Manasquan Inlet. Each team was armed with a sinker tube, but the 40 degree water and poor vis (3-4 feet) limited our bottom times and ability to locate the "Mother Lode" that Chief Nesley had hoped for. We still managed to haul in about 50 pounds of lead and lures. Asst. Chief Melo and Tom Trafer, both divers, stayed topside to brief and supervise our first aiders. Max, Sarah, and Todd got their first exposures to assisting divers into their drysuits and completing cold water gear-up. In this season especially, having surface support on the wall is also greatly appreciated when it comes to hauling tubes and gear out at the exit point.

After we packed it in at the dive site and cleaned gear, Chief Nesley then ran all the divers through recertification for compressor operations. Our air compressor is serviced and its gas tested twice a year, so we have great confidence in its performance. In line with this, our divers are also checked out twice a year in its proper operation. With the right training in safety and taking advantage of our compressor's cascade system, it is never a problem for us to fill tanks or wait to get tanks filled.

It was a productive day with a lot of training. We got to train a few more surface support personnel, who mostly enjoyed themselves, despite the cold. We'd like to thank Max, Sarah, and Todd for their active participation. It gives us peace of mind as search and rescue divers knowing that someone has our backs. Only their hands got wet, but our surface support personnel and first aiders are vital to the safety and function of our team.


Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Rescue Dive Team over the years... 2010

While working on the photo database and trying to get all of the photos together from over the years thought it might be interesting to post a little from each of the events "over the years"...

Blizzard Dive December 2010

Rescue 34 Boat training

Sinker Sales

Ice Training Dive

Night Search Call

Pygmy Whale Rescue

Pumpkin Contest

Lost Ring Recovery