Water Rescue Team breaks down responding to cold water calls

Published: Jan. 9, 2023 at 5:29 AM EST
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Even though they see a significant drop in water rescue calls over the winter months, the Richmond Fire Department’s Water Rescue Team says they’re still responding to calls about two to three times a week.

Everything from what they wear to how they train prepares them to help anyone in distress out in the cold water.

In the winter, it’s all about layering up to stay warm. The team dresses differently than the t-shirts and shorts they wear during a call in the summer.

“We have to wear something to protect us from hypothermia so we tend to wear dry suits which keeps the water...makes a barrier between the water and our skin,” said Captain Brian Dalrymple, a member of the Richmond Fire Department Water Rescue Team.

It can quickly get cold even for crew members who don’t get in the water.

“Our boats move quite fast so you have that cold air blowing past your face blowing past your skin you could lose a lot of body temperature,” said Dalrymple.

During the winter months, the water rescue team says that the kinds of calls they respond to can vary.

“We’re still having to respond to paddlers and other kinds of watercraft who get lost, come out of boats we get people who see other people who appear to be in distress from a bridge we’ve got to respond to those people,” explained Dalrymple.

Responding to those cold water calls takes training. That’s why the water rescue team is out on the water every week training and staying up to date on their skills.

“Whatever shift is working that day they’re putting boats in they’re doing rope skills they’re doing something on the water,” Dalrymple stated.

Crews will still go out on the water and train even when the river is at 9 or 10 feet. They say the river is constantly changing and training for all river levels helps them be as effective as possible.