FRIPP ISLAND (WTOC) - The Fripp Island Sea Rescue team is working on their water rescue skills.
The first responders were at sea Friday morning, training with the Coast Guard's helicopter.
Of course it was freezing cold, the wind was strong, and the water was very choppy, but those are conditions rescuers have to work in. Despite responding to dozens of rescue missions each year – and rescuing dozens of people – the Fripp Island Sea Rescue team trains with the Coast Guard at least once a month.
"Every time we go out to practice, there are different weather conditions and sea conditions. Different times of day, this one was a day time exercise. We've done a lot of evening exercises. It just gets you as comfortable with the process so that if you ever have to go out in real conditions, you're prepared," said Mark Draves, Fripp Island Sea Rescue.
Friday, the mission was to simulate a situation where there's someone distressed at sea. Fripp Island rescuers and EMTs respond to the location, but they would need the Coast Guard's help getting the injured person back. That's where the helicopter comes in.
The Coast Guard gets as close as it can to the rescue boat. Then lowers down a device to transport the injured person from the boat, up to the helicopter.
"Our activities are primarily assisting the boating public. Anywhere from people running aground, getting lost in the rivers, having engine trouble. But, it's not unusual for us to have a medical situation where someone has been injured on a boat," said Cliff Spann, Fripp Island Sea Rescue.
Many moving parts and people have to work together during a rescue simulation.
"My job is to position the boat and then keep it going in the right direction while the other crew members handle the operations with baskets and the trail lines," said Spann.
And it's a dangerous operation. The boats and the helicopter have to stay in sync to transport an injured person from the water to the helicopter safely and successfully. One wrong move can put a lot of people in danger.
"It's amazing how talented these coast guard pilots and crew are. To be able to position a helicopter within 10 to 15 feet over your head, control its movement with the wind and the boat movements. Particularly when you're not under power," said Draves.
Once the injured person is taken from the boat and into the helicopter, they are taken to get medical treatment. The need for a Coast Guard rescue doesn't happen near Fripp Island too often, but if it does, the team's 20 volunteers are ready.
"This keeps us well trained in order to work with the Coast Guard in those kinds of emergencies," said Spann.
"Hopefully we'll never have to do this under real conditions, but I think the people here are prepared for that," said Draves.
Members of the rescue team say if you're ever in need of their services, just call 911 and they'll do everything they can to help you.