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The Alameda drowning incident: Early lessons

In the days following the drowning of a man in Alameda, Calif., on Memorial Day, the media and experts alike are still parsing what, exactly, happened. In the latest development, local police in Alameda claim they called to request help from local mutual aid agencies, who in turn have denied receiving any such call.

This story has been receiving a lot of attention by EMS1 readers, going by the comments being posted on both the website and the EM1 Facebook Page.

Since the first report, there have been follow up analyses of whether the responders were correct in not performing a rescue.

Now there are allegations about whether mutual aid was requested from the scene for trained personnel and equipment to respond.

Let's try to figure out some lessons that are at play.

Lesson 1: Scene safety always comes first, right?
If that is true, then there are several reasons why a rescue was not initiated by the on scene crew.

Water rescue is not easy — no technical rescue is — and that's why training is mandatory. We can debate whether the department, being surrounded by water, should have had training, but at the temporal moment of the incident, the crew may not have been equipped or prepared to manage the event.

In our profession, we can never train enough for these rare events. It's a good time to review our policies and procedures and refresh what it will take to respond to these types of events.

Lesson 2: Communication during an event, no matter how small, is essential.
Its importance is magnified when the incident requires help beyond the initial on scene resources. It becomes a glaring issue when interagency cooperation is needed.

Based on the initial news story, there was some communication. The question is whether it was effective and confirmed appropriately. What communication procedures are in place in your region? Are you familiar with which channel to use, which comm center to contact, during an interagency event?

This was a rare, tragic event with a untoward outcome. There will be significant investigation as to what happened during the incident. For the moment, let's learn from what we know right now.

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