Search and rescues small part of dive team’s service

Central Iowa Underwater Search and Rescue
photo by Tammy Pearson/Adair County Free Press
Central Iowa Underwater Search and Rescue team members participating in training at the Greenfield pool were Phil Whitcomb, Mary White, Roger Ritter, Mike Peverill, Dave Hennigar, and Carol Kirkbride.

For the Central Iowa Underwater Search and Rescue team, the Aug. 13 training at the Greenfield pool was especially significant. The group was using its new equipment, made possible by a grant from Homeland Security, for the first time.

Previously, members of the volunteer team had to provide their own equipment.

“We’re very thankful for the grant. We’re in a much better position to help the community,” said Mary White.

The group usually trains at the pool at the Easter Seals Camp, but with it currently closed, they were seeking another site. Member Dave Hennigar of Greenfield suggested the community pool, and with the pool closing for the season the day before, the timing was good.

Over the last three years, the group has been called out 4 to 10 times a year for search and rescue operations. While they mainly serve central Iowa, they can respond anywhere in the state. 

However, the group is much busier than those numbers indicate. Besides training, the group also assists other organizations, such as the DNR and Army Corps of Engineers, in clearing debris from beaches or retrieving equipment that falls into the water. They are present at Polar Plunges that benefit Special Olympics, making sure that the “plunge” area is free of ice and underwater debris, as well as clearing areas used for the swimming portion of triathlons.

The addition of a trailer in 2014 has made it much easier to respond to calls, said White. Equipment is organized and divers can get ready in the trailer.

The addition of air conditioning and heating will provide a place for divers to recover regardless of weather. Portable huts have been used in the past but are not as efficient as the trailer.

“It’s a commitment, but it’s worth it,” said White. “If we can help a family find closure, it’s worth it.”

Members of the team are  trained and certified by Emergency Response Diving International. Five are certified for ice search and rescue. Divers are accompanied by a “tender” who looks out for them and their equipment.

A desire to serve others and an enjoyment of diving seem to be common among team members.

“I like to give back and I like to dive,” said Carol Kirkbride. “I learned to like to dive. It didn’t come easy,” she said. But, thanks to a patient trainer, Kirkbride said she was able to overcome her fears of diving, especially in murky waters.

Hennigar has been a member since 2011. He said he and his wife, Cindy, learned to SCUBA dive since it was on their “bucket list.” When his trainer asked if he would join, he said yes. It gave him a chance to train monthly and make new friends.

“It’s good to be ready and never have to go,” said Hennigar.

The team is happy to speak about what they do, to visit schools, scouts and other groups, and to give lessons on life vests and ice safety, among other topics, said White.

And with team members paying for the group’s expenses, donations are always welcome, she said.

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