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Preparing for Flood Water Rescue in the Shadow of Hurricane Ida

September 14, 2022

The calm before the inevitable storm is the best time to prepare.

Last September, Montgomery Township was torrentially drenched by the remnants of Hurricane Ida — a storm firefighters will not soon forget. Tremendous property damage ensued, but most tragic was the loss of life, including a Montgomery resident in Hillsborough and 29 others in New Jersey — the state with the highest loss of the nine Gulf and Atlantic coastal states. We were fortunate that so many successful water rescues were made in Montgomery and Rocky Hill.

Fire Station 46’s John Bolen (left) and Justin Neves (right) with the 14-foot Inmar rescue boat in Blawenburg.

In the aftermath of the storm, Montgomery Township Volunteer Company No. 2 (aka Station 46) considered the need to expand their flood-related capabilities. Essential rescue equipment might not be available from a neighboring fire company during another large-scale flooding event. An evaluation of current water rescue gear and equipment needs has resulted in purchases this summer of a 14-foot Inmar inflatable rescue boat with an aluminum floor, dry suits, life vests, helmets, floatation devices, and other gear and equipment to conduct swift water rescues.

Station 46 now has enough water rescue equipment to fully outfit multiple water rescue technicians and is preparing them to make direct contact rescues and rescues from a boat. Station 46’s Lt. Justin Neves ordered the water rescue equipment and is coordinating training with Capt. Daniel Labos. “The fire district spent over $30,000 on the new equipment. About $11,000 of the funding was applied from fire inspection fines collected by the Montgomery Fire Prevention Bureau,” Neves said. With the addition of the new marine unit, Station 46 cannot only better serve its fire district — the southern part of Montgomery — but can better provide “mutual aid” to assist other fire departments via personnel and equipment. Mutual aid is critical in larger scale or specialized incidents such as flood water rescues.

Station 46 often works together with Station 45 in Belle Mead, Rocky Hill, and Hopewell Borough. All four departments have invested a large amount of time to train together to better serve their communities. Other cooperating area towns with water rescue capabilities include Princeton, Griggstown, Kingston, and Hillsborough. During the summer draught, Montgomery fire company members trained to become “swift water rescue technicians.” This multi-part training is conducted in the classroom, swimming pool, and on the Delaware River.

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Eleven volunteers are being trained – five from Station 46 and six from Station 45. A third and most advanced training in the series will take place in the fall on the Delaware River for two days. This is the final step in certifying the new rescue technicians. Seven other Station 46 members have already completed swift water rescue training, which is an optional addition to their firefighting training. “By investing in swift water rescue equipment and training, responders in Montgomery are now better prepared to aid the public during flood water-related emergencies,” concluded Lt. Neves.

In any emergency, dial 9-1-1, give your location and the situation, speak calmly and clearly, and don’t hang up. Listen to the dispatcher’s directions carefully. Congratulations are heartily given this month to three members who have completed many weeks of intense training and have passed the required NJ State Firefighter 1 Exam. Members Neil Advant, Dev Hudson, and Branden Quirinale were spotlighted in the July issue of The Montgomery News. Both Montgomery fire companies are 100 percent volunteer and rely upon both a small percentage of property taxes and on donations.

Rocky Hill Fire Department

The Rocky Hill Fire Department (Station 53) borders the Millstone River and the Delaware & Raritan Canal, where it has provided decades of water rescue operations. Station 53 has nine members trained as swift water technicians. In the spring of 2023, eight additional members plan to complete their certification. Due to recent storms, Rocky Hill, Montgomery, and Griggstown 35 each made critical upgrades in equipment, cross-department trained, and developed a fluent form of communication to better prepare and create a progressive and professional swift water rescue capability for the lower end of Somerset County.


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