The Anatomy of a Water Rescue

By KBJR News 1

July 23, 2012 Updated Jul 24, 2012 at 9:57 AM CDT

Duluth, MN (Northland's NewsCenter) - Lieutenant Rick Slatten, of the St. Louis County Rescue Squad, says, when it comes to an emergency water rescue, all hands are on deck: "Searches, drowning, those types of things are [an] everybody come [situation]. If you're available, respond."

According to Active Assistant Fire Chief, Jarry Keppers, even with the high level of response, it won't prevent another rescue from taking place, if needed.

"We do have enough units to respond to another emergency, if we need to. Of course, once the emergencies start to pile up, then it becomes more difficult. But, we are able to respond to more than one emergency at a time," says Keppers.

Both Keppers and Slatten cite June's flooding as an example, where 76 water rescues occurred over a 36 hour period.

Slatten says it's all thanks to the pivotal relationship among the various squads: "It's vital—we'd fail without it. These guys live and breathe for each other; they're like family to each other."

...but it all comes at a price, which upsets some taxpayers, who largely fund rescue efforts.

"There's the gas involved to get there, there's the maintenance on the boats, and the vehicles that pull them. There's capital depreciation on the cost of purchase," says Slatten.

But, according to Keppers, it's important to remember the cost of business isn't going up when the squads head out: "We cost the same—whether we're sitting here, in the station, or responding to an emergency."

And, arguably most important, according to officials, it doesn't cost an individual a dime to be rescued.

Slatten says anything to the contrary could be deadly: "It causes people to delay, to engage in ill–advised rescue attempts before they call in people with professional training."

Slatten says federal grants, which Duluth squads qualify for more than others—due to the sheer volume of rescues, and the harbor itself—also help reduce equipment costs.

Slatten adds that the Rescue Squad's annual direct mail fundraising campaign, which is what supports daily operational costs, is currently underway.