St. Tammany firefighters stage rapid dive drill - KSLA News 12 Shreveport, Louisiana News Weather & Sports

St. Tammany firefighters stage rapid dive drill

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SLIDELL, LA (WVUE) -

Some north shore firefighters showed Thursday how quickly they could save someone trapped in a car under water. Every second counts, and they say special taxpayer-funded equipment shaves minutes off of a rescue.

In Thursday's drill, the scenario involved an imaginary car submerged in the water at Marina Drive in Slidell. The urgency of the drill, however, was very real, and it showed the skill of divers with St. Tammany Fire District No. 1.

"We used rapid diver equipment that we purchased in 2009," said fire Chief Chris Kaufmann. "We are surrounded by water in several areas of our district. We wanted the taxpayers to see their tax dollars at work. That equipment can be donned in less than a minute. You can be in the water and give a person a chance that's been submerged for less than 10 minutes or so. We know that you are clinically brain dead in 6 minutes without oxygen."

A buoy helps mark the spot of where the imaginary car went down.

"We have 41 people trained today in the Rapid Diver equipment. Eleven more going through training today," said Kaufman.

Divers make quick work of getting to the canal bottom. Dive coordinator Billy Dekemel played the victim.

"Visibility is decent today, and that's not always the case," Dekemel said. "Usually it's zero- to 3-feet visibility if you have a vehicle in the water and the mud is all over the place. It's about 4- to 6-foot visibility today. Not bad."

Dekemel made it out alive in this demonstration, thanks to the rapid dive team. The scenario played out through his recovery on the dock.

"We want to let the public know how quick it can be," Kaufmann said. "How quick we can enter the water and give those victims a chance."

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