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Alameda Fire Department Planned and Budgeted for Eight Emergency Water Rescue Responses this Year

Detailed department-by-department budget documents available on the City of Alameda’s website indicate that the Alameda Fire Department was budgeting and planning for eight emergency water rescue responses in Fiscal Year 2010/11 and ten in Fiscal Year 2011/12.

The Alameda Fire Department has come under fire itself this past week, for the death of Raymond Zack, who committed suicide by prolonged self-exposure in the cold Bay waters off of Crown Beach in Alameda. Several Alameda police officers and firefighters watched for over an hour as Zack succumbed, but not one entered the water to talk to him or prevent him from killing himself.

The fire department has blamed funding cuts for the lack of firefighters certified in land-based water rescue, however, the same March 16th, 2009 memo that Interim Fire Chief Mike D’Orazi cited, goes on to say that funding had been restored, and certification was to begin again in “30 to 45 days.” Action Alameda News has asked Marie Gilmore to explain why there have been no certifications in the past two years, since that March 2009 memo, and we await a response.

In the meantime, Action Alameda News has identified a detailed budget document on the City’s website, that indicates that the Fire Department was planning and budgeting for water rescue responses this year and next year, and had set a target of eight responses in the current year as a measurable performance metric. The notation is under the “FIRE – Emergency Services” detail section of the budget document, and the excerpt is reproduced below.

2010-11 Budget Department Budgets Excerpt

10 comments to Alameda Fire Department Planned and Budgeted for Eight Emergency Water Rescue Responses this Year

  • Liz Williams

    I’m struggling here with which is worse: That Mayor Gilmore can’t read a budget document and didn’t know this was in the budget, or that she can read it, and lied.

    Wait – both are appalling.

  • Barb

    We the people elected a Mayor who after 6 years on the Council didn’t know she couldn’t actually fire people other than the Council’s 3 employees. Or that we have a City Manager form of government.
    We re-elected Tam, after she deceitfully sent confidential emails to the Fire Dept’s negotiating team. Then we we were bought by Bonta who knew so little about out City and people, that he just echoes whatever the first two say.
    So know we are blessed with Russo, a more politically ambitious man would be hard to find. And an elected official who couldn’t get along with the other elected officials in his City.
    We have no one to blame but ourselves.

  • Anne Prowell

    Great job at ferreting out the documented truth, AA.

    I had read three annual budget reports earlier this year and noticed that the number of Actual Incidents were never reported, so requested and received the historical data. The Water Rescue category is curiously missing for all years, though may be included under “Uncategorized”.

    Looking forward to their next excuse and your followup.

  • alamedavigilante

    The Mayor & Council should not hesitate to demand the resignations of the appropriate officers/firefighters involved. Otherwise, this is Mayor Gilmore’s “Watergate”

  • Anon

    Letter to the Editor of the Alameda Sun: Beach safety focus


    I am an Alameda resident, father of three children, and a Alameda firefighter.

    I feel that it is my responsibility to respond to the article, “Be Safe in Water,” printed in the Alameda Sun by the Fire Department administration, July 16. The message regarding “Beach Safety Tips” in reference to “lifeguards” can be confusing, and somewhat misleading, so I feel it incumbent on me to clarify certain facts regarding water rescue and safety.

    The article advises the reader to “swim near a lifeguard” and to “ask a lifeguard about the conditions before entering unfamiliar water.” The public needs to be aware that there are no lifeguards on duty anywhere on Crown Beach’s 2.5 mile stretch or elsewhere along the surrounding natural water areas of Alameda.

    In 1999, the City Council approved the implementation of a Surface Water Rescue Swimmer program to provide Alameda firefighters with the necessary skills and resources to provide water rescue response to all waterfront areas of Alameda’s jurisdiction.

    This program was instituted due to the absence of lifeguards, the significant delays of water rescue response from the Coast Guard and Sheriff’s Dive Teams, and the lack of certified water rescue training for Alameda firefighters.

    After the death of two adolescents below the Bay Farm Island Bridge a few years earlier, the Fire Department urged the City to support a safer, more efficient water rescue response capability, which the Fire Department has since offered, until now.

    Last year, the City Council approved a budget presented by former City Manager Debra Kurita and current Fire Chief Dave Kapler that has dismantled the Fire Department Surface Water Rescue capability.

    Due to the budget reductions, the necessary recertification of our water rescue swimmers for OSHA compliance was not funded.

    As of March 16, 2009, the Fire Department administration issued an operational status change, placing the surface water rescue swimmer program on hold. According to the status change, “all previously qualified Rescue Swimmers shall not enter the water for an active incident until further notice.”

    What does all of this mean to a swimmer in distress? It means that firefighters may not swim to or use the rescue boat and rescue boards to approach a distressed swimmer in the water.

    Firefighters are permitted to toss a 75-foot water rescue rope to the victim, provided the victim is within 75 feet of the shore, to effect a rescue. The Fire Department Incident Commander will request that the County Dispatcher contact Coast Guard for assistance.

    So, in the absence of lifeguards, what do I recommend for a “safe and smart” time at the beach?

    Don’t enter the water with more than one non-proficient swimmer at a time. Having three children of my own, it’s very easy to lose track of one while supervising the others. Keep your eyes on and stay close to the non-proficient swimmer at all times. Even in shallow water, maintain a 1:1 ratio. The waves, swells and tides can be challenging for young ones and it only takes a split-second for tragedy to occur.

    – Steve Floyd

  • As of March 16, 2009, funding for the water rescue swimmer program was re-instated, and training for re-certification was to begin in “30 to 45 days.”

    Given that, why, between March 16, 2009, and May 30, 2011 – over two years – did the Alameda Fire Department not produce a single certified water rescue swimmer, and re-instate the program?

  • Notty

    I have heard the report on this incident is due out September 29. I am curious whether there has been any luck on tracking down subsequent memos re: the re-instituting of the training program, or have such been “disappeared?”

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