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March 20, 2018 10:14 PM

Water Rescue Team Gives Inside Look at Training, Preparation

Funeral services are scheduled for the little girl who drowned at Falls Park. Five-year-old Maggie Jo Zaiger fell into the foam in the Falls on Sunday.

Sioux Falls Fire Rescue's Urban Search and Rescue Team got there in about four minutes, and pulled the Iowa girl out after nine minutes. One of the Sioux Falls firefighters who worked on this rescue is telling us how the team prepares for these situations. 

In just 39 seconds, firefighter Michael Olson is ready to go. He demonstrated how he can put on a yellow wetsuit of sorts, the team uses for water rescues. There is not a moment he can waste when he gets the call. 

"We can't get rattled. We can't get tunnel vision. We have to maintain the broad scope of what's going on," Olson said.

Olson is not commenting on Sunday's drowning at Falls Park, but is giving us a glimpse at what it takes for the USAR team to perform a water rescue. He says the goal is to get there in under five minutes.

"Your training takes over, so it's training until you get to those people and then at that point, you know, the realness sets in," Olson said.

It takes 40 hours over five days to certify members of this team to respond to the situation at the Falls. Olson says they retrain every year and practice different types of drills.

They also constantly practice with equipment, like an inflatable boat to help members during rescues. Communication is key when it comes to challenges out in the field job, including the foam at the Falls. 

"How we're going to get rid of it. Whether that's using fire streams to blow it away or fans, that's unique. When we go to other places as instructors get re-certified, when we talk about the foam issue we have, that's unique to our part of the country," Olson said. 

No matter how much time goes by, at the end of the day Olson says the goal here is always the same. 

"It's more the wanting to help people. I know that sounds very cliché, that's what we all come here to do," Olson said. 




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