2016 Emergency Responder Training FLB Recipients

Each year, we have the privilege of awarding Swiftwater Rescue Technician Level 1 courses as a form of emergency responder training to better prepare first responders for flooding incidents.

Meet 2016’s recipients!

Mike Halprin, Canmore Fire Rescue

Not being able to help and the feeling of being helpless are both feelings I encountered during the flood of 2013 in Canmore.

I’ve lived in Canmore my whole life and have spent a lot of time around Cougar Creek, but when the creek started rising as fast as it did, I knew we were in for something bad. When the fireman came to my door and said I only had five minutes to gather what I need, I was in shock. Is this really happening to me?  

It was hard enough thinking about what I needed to take with me for who knows how many days, but my needs were trumped having my two dogs with me. I jumped on the evacuation bus with two terrified dogs and a good friend of mine I met up with who helped me get the dogs on the bus and keep them calm.

Fast forward to day two of the evacuation…

The house I ended up at was a two bedroom house that was sleeping fourteen people, including three children and four dogs. We were right off the Bow River and all of the streets in the area were flooded. You needed a truck or SUV to access the house. Myself and my friend decided to leave the dogs at home and walk the banks of the river on somewhat of a patrol. 

This is when the feeling of helplessness kicked in.

We couldn’t believe what we were seeing… A man rafting down the river, kayakers, families with little children right on the river bank or ducking under the yellow tape to get a closer look. All I could think about was what I would do if someone fell in. What could I use to help get them out… or would jumping in after them be a good or bad idea…
After three days of crazy flows in the river and creeks, nonstop close calls with people getting too close to the water, I decided I wanted to be in the position where I could help if needed. That’s when I decided to apply for a position at Canmore Fire Rescue. I wanted to be a part of the team that worked tirelessly for days on end to make sure Canmore and its residents were as safe as possible in the face of a disaster. 

Now I am a part of that team and look forward to all of the emergency responder training I can take to better myself, and to be able to run towards a rescue situation with the skills and knowledge to aid in whatever type of rescue is thrown my way.

Rick Gauthier, Cochrane Search & Rescue

I have been a member of Cochrane Search and Rescue (CSAR) since 2010.  CSAR is a not-for-profit on-call 24/7 professional, dedicated search and rescue volunteers organization which responds to missing person searches and provides emergency relief to Cochrane and surrounding communities. 

The year 2013 brought record high flood water to the Town of Cochrane as well as many other communities.  Over a period of 6 days between June 20th and June 25th, volunteer members of our organization provided a service to the community of Cochrane by securing the banks of the Bow River.  Approximately 1,080 volunteer hours were spent during this operational period and we were successful at maintaining safety with no incidents requiring emergency response. 

Had there been a need for water rescue, CSAR would have been able to provide only very basic shore to water assistance with the use of rope kits.  As a ground searching team primarily, water rescue is not a task that we normally would train members for.   

Additionally, there were several operational periods that involved ensuring the safety of residents in the communities of Black Diamond and High River, searching for a suspected victim on the Sitsika First Nation, and assessing property damage due to flooding on the Morley Reserve.  All of these operational periods required our members to be in close proximity to the river banks, increasing our risk potential.  As a CSAR member, I participated in the operations in Cochrane, Morley and Sitsika.

It is the goal of CSAR to train at least one member on Swift Water Rescue Training SRT1 to obtain the knowledge and skills needed to properly manage and execute flood related incidents.  This would provide an important first step  for CSAR to better understand the benefits of this training.  The knowledge obtained would provide guidance to obtaining proper equipment and provide some insight into the benefits of further training for other CSAR members.

Mike Pearl, Foothills Fire Department

I have been a firefighter with the High River Fire Department since 2004, and I have been a member of the Foothills Fire Department since 2012.

On June 20th, 2013 I started out my day checking out facebook while I was eating breakfast. I saw that High River was in a state of local emergency, and under a high streamflow advisory. I was comlpetely taken by surprise.

I quickly got dressed and jumped in my truck, and headed to my family’s boat shop in High River, which is along the north bank of the Highwood River, to see what was going on. I was completely shocked with what I saw when I arrived.

I quickly called as many of my family members as I could, and made my way into our shop. I jumped into action right away and started moving important things to higher ground. I spent the next three hours trying to save as much of our personal belongings as possible, as well as our customers’ boats. By this time, the river had overflowed so bad that the road to the shop had turned into a raging river itself.

I had to walk through knee-deep waters to get back to my truck, which was hitched to a customer’s boat. I remember as soon as I started moving the turck, the current started to push my truck sideways. I drove to safety and parked a litte way down the road.

At that point, I could hear someone screaming for help and when I located her, there was absolutely nowhere for her to go. I gave one of our employees specific instructions to get in one of our yard jeeps and try to pick up this woman and bring her to safety. The rescue was successful and we drove her to dry ground where she met up with a friend.

After I was assured everyone had left the property, I jumped into my truck and left. I dropped off the boat that was attached to my truck in a safe and secure area, and headed home to grab a few things. When I got there, the RCMP were evacuatung our neighborhood. I ran into the house and grabbed a change of clothes and an overnight bag and jumped back into the truck.

I heard on a fire dept radio that they needed boats to help rescue people at the fire hall, and headed up there to help.

I wasn’t in the hall for even 30 seconds and was tasked to operate a boat to rescue a small child who was on a ventilator, and had very little battery life left due to the power being out.

We launched the boat and met up with EMS, and the EMT and Paramedic jumped in the boat to come with us just in case something happened to the child during the rescue. After a very trying boat ride to get there, we had to walk a block down the flooded steet to reach the house. We then assisted the mom and the child back to the boat and made our way back to the launch point and assisted in getting the child into the ambulance. I spent the remainder of the afternoon doing boat rescues and assisting people to safety. 

I spent the next day with Foothills doing various tasks around the MD, and the following day I worked a daytime shift with HRFD on the north side of town for fire protection if required.

I am a very experienced boat operator and am called upon to operate the Jet boat for FFD when rescue events happen in our area. I feel that having my swift water technician certification would be beneficial to both fire departments, and will make me feel that much more confident when we are out on the water.

Alex Moran, High River Fire Department

I have been an active member with High River Fire Department (HRFD) since 2012. I first started in High River as a student on practicum in 2012 for a period of three months. I later returned as a full-time paid firefighter under contract immediately after the devastation in 2013.

I saw first-hand the destruction caused by the flooding and how it affected people’s lives physically and emotionally. I spent time volunteering to clean out basements that had been completely submerged in water, and had to be stripped down to the studs, disposing of everything before people could even think about rebuilding. 
While full-time with HRFD, we preformed our regular duties as firefighters, as well as helping the town and its citizens rebuild. I can confidently say after three years the town has still not fully recovered, although you wouldn’t know. On the surface, High River is as bright and beautiful as it ever was. But scars still remain in the form of foreclosed homes, empty lots, and a plethora of flood protection in place in case of future flooding. 
I am now a paid per call firefighter with HRFD and work with fellow firefighters who have received this bursary such as Dorin, Tim, and Dan. I am seeking out this course so I can be of use in case of other future disasters in High River. If a flood were to happen again, I can’t bear the thought of sitting idly by while my fellow friends’ homes and lives are destroyed.  I won’t sit idly by.

Learn more about the Flood Legacy Bursary, and sign up for a reminder to apply!