MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - The images coming out of Texas and Louisiana from Hurricane Harvey have gripped the country as first responders work tirelessly around the clock to rescue people from flood waters.
The Montgomery Fire Department has been following the coverage along with the rest of the nation and praised the efforts of crews out saving lives.
The agency discussed how they gear up for those dangerous missions if disaster should ever strike.
On Tuesday, Montgomery Fire/Rescue shed light on what goes into risky rescue situations on the water, including flooding in the city, and showed us all of the equipment they use in such incidents.
"We have a lot of different capabilities, anywhere from swift water, open water with the big boats and with shallow water, we have inflatable boats that can get to places some of the places the bigger boats can't get to. We have wave runner capabilities to assist in a lot of the riverfront activities. Then there's our dive team equipment to assist in recovery operations," said District Fire Chief Russ Collier.
The dive team is based at Station 2 on South Holt Street but the department has certified divers in other stations throughout the city, approximately 30 personnel total that can be called in at any time if more resources are needed.
The divers have special certifications, including dive rescue specialist and swift water rescue. Some of them are dive instructors.
"These guys train every day. We have three different shifts in the fire department. They train constantly. They train at least twice weekly on the river where they do dive rotations," Collier explained.
Sometimes they use indoor pools when there is inclement weather.
"It's just an ongoing process to get them prepared for the worst and do the job they're required to do when they get there," Collier stated.
Montgomery fire officials recognize that in the event of a natural disaster, each incident is different and requires different resources.
"From the smallest water rescue, to the most complex incident, we have the capabilities to call in people as needed," Collier added.
The department has an action plan for different disasters and would respond accordingly, adhering to the plan and adapting as the event unfolded.
Lt. John Flournoy demonstrated how the new dive van is helping the team. It houses all of their equipment so that it's ready to go at all times. The gear is lined up inside for divers to suit up on the way to an emergency on the water.
"That way we can be headed to the scene and check everything off while in route so that when we get there, we're ready to dive right then," he explained.
Flournoy also pointed out the department's 20-foot Boston Whaler.
"We use this on most of our dive scenes and for all of our activities on the water front here in Montgomery," he said
Connector boats are the newest additions to the fleet of equipment.
"These boats are used in dive situations so we can haul and transport equipment and personnel or we can use them to dive off of. You can tie them together and make one large platform to dive off of instead of one small boat," Flournoy added.
A number of inflatable boats are also placed strategically throughout the city.
"These are going to be the best boats for any type of flood event. These boats can be picked up and carried to wherever they need to be placed in the water instead of having a boat ramp or landing to launch the boat. We can maneuver these, take them around, walk them up and down streets, however need be to get victims out of vehicles, cars, houses," Flournoy stated.
The water rescue/dive team is just one component of the fire department's Special Operations Division, which also consists of a technical/heavy rescue (handling things like structural collapses and vehicle extrication) and the hazardous material team.
The Montgomery Dive Team is part of a regional team through the state EMA office and assists in emergencies in the 12 centrally located counties in the state.
"Disasters like this taking place in South Texas only makes us prepare harder, train harder in hopes that these situations don't happen and when and if they do, we're prepared for them," Collier said. "Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and family members of everybody affected by that tragedy."