Last week City Council proclaimed Wednesday, June 15th as Police Officer Enymoser Day in the City in honor of his quick thinking and creative use of his K-9 dog leash to reel in a person that had fallen in the river and was being pulled under by the force of the current.
Thankfully this story had a happy ending but it served as a reminder of how important it is to be prepared for the unexpected. Following that incident, the City staff met to develop a more detailed strategy for ensuring river safety that goes beyond issuing K-9 leashes to all our employees. Here’s a look at what they’ve come up with:
With the recent incidents involving river safety in Kent as well as other communities in the area, some members of city staff decided to meet to consider ways to improve water safety. The nature of the concerns involve the safety of those people interested in recreation on the water (kayakers, etc.), as well as the increasing numbers of people who wish to swim or wade in the water. Equally important are the concerns for those who are responsible for the safety and rescue of local water users.
This group will be considered an informal task force, since most of the issues should be handled quickly, and the group will then be dissolved. Continuing responsibilities will then fall back to the respective city departments for maintaining the safety efforts. We have developed some strategies to investigate and consider in order to address these concerns.
Results of the meeting:
- Consideration of how to gauge the water flow and safety conditions on the river, and make the public aware of these conditions.
Discussion in this area included possible methods of gauging river conditions based on known standards of depth and flow at Hiram and Old Portage. Also discussed was the possibility of gauging and creating standards with equipment at the pump house near the dam.
For the time being, the possibility of creating color-coded paint marking at a few sites within the river will be pursued. The various depth colors will indicate the treacherous nature of the conditions at the time. Over time, experienced users of the river will recognize whether the conditions are within the skills of the user. Signs may be used to clarify and define the meaning of the colored coding for novices.
Notification/signage advising of proper safety considerations in park areas that may commonly be used for swimming, etc.
Staff brought some samples of signs that might be valuable in cautioning casual users of the river for swimming, wading, etc. After discussion, it was decided that John Idone should follow up on this option since most of the areas where these activities take place are park properties.
- Formalizing and firming up the protocol for activation of the dive team in response to possible rescue situations. This action will result in a clearer, more standardized protocol on activation of the team, with guidance on the definition of a when someone is regarded as a possible “victim,” requiring team activation.
- Training and equipment for other first responders, especially the police.
Some rescue training has been conducted for the police, but there is very little equipment available when officers may be the first to respond to a potential drowning incident. The ready availability of “throw bags” in several cruisers will be very valuable. The addition of special personal flotation devices (PFD) is also critically essential for those who may be thrust into the situation of executing a rescue attempt. This equipment will be investigated by Greg Urchek and Bill Lillich, and training updates, especially for new personnel, will be undertaken by the Fire Department.
- Water safety demonstrations and distribution of safety materials for the public.
This type of presentation is often to demonstrate safe boating tactics, etc., but the focus of this effort is to attract average citizens in order to reinforce safe practices while being in and around the water. Advanced safety practices will be highlighted in the next week, in hopes that some interest will be generated for presentation at the Heritage Festival. Again, the highlight at the festival will be safety while wading, swimming, or lazing around the river. Safety materials and publications will be in abundance. This will be handled by Dave Moore, Dave Herpy and the Portage County Dive Team.
- River clean up efforts are considered akin to safety in that branches, tree, logs and other clutter can be removed. It is best accomplished in late summer, and will probably be scheduled in August. Dave Herpy feels that many of the Kent State group will be willing to volunteer in the clean up. This will be managed by Gene Roberts and KSU’s Dave Herpy.