HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - Between the ocean, the intracoastal and the inlet, the Grand Strand sees a lot of water emergencies. Horry County Fire Rescue wants to be sure its crews are ready to handle those calls. Firefighters are going through a marine rescue drill on Thursday and Friday.
It will give them the chance to use the brand new Marine Communication center at the Little River Fire Station. The center has new radios that let rescue crews communicate with cities all along our coast, including North Carolina.
During this two-day drill, firefighters will test these new tools so they're familiar with them before they're used in an actual emergency; but, the only way to train for real life emergencies is a real life scenario, so that's exactly what will happen. Since fire rescue found response time is slow with casino boats, they'll be used during this training. Casino boat captains will call 911 from the water to ask for a fire boat, through the new system. This system will hopefully clear up issues they've seen in the past.
"It alleviates a lot of the confusion on the radio for the boats and we're gonna streamline the response for the medical emergencies out there or any type of emergency, even boat accidents," said Battalion Chief Dan Shankle.
When it comes to saving your life in those situations, Horry County Fire rescue says it has the hardest time with communication on the water. That's because when a water emergency happens, a lot of people are involved.
Here's how that will change. Typically boat captains call emergencies on the coast guard channel, the coast guard then has to notify HCFR who will then get a response team on the water. With a new marine communication center in place, calls from boat captains can go directly to fire rescue, bypassing the coast guard. Breaking the buffer and alleviating confusion on the radios could give rescue crews more time to get to the emergency.
The system is relatively cheap - it only costs a couple hundred dollars - and that money is essentially buying fire rescue more time to save your life.
"Ten extra minutes to be able to intervene with paramedics out on the boat is critical. we can do so much more to maybe save a person's life," Shankle said.
If this new communication system does improve fire rescue's response time, two other centers could open in other locations in the county.