- Most of us won't jump into a lake this time of year, but that's exactly what the Onieda County Dive team did today to hone their skills.
Divers know cold water raises the stakes when it comes to saving lives, but right now, the team is fighting to save itself.
Recently members of the Oneida County voted to cut the team's funding. A move divers say could cost lives- Every second counts in a drowning emergency, a quick response could save a life.
"The dive team has responded to scenes within about 17 minutes, and we've had people out of the water in under 20 minutes," said Bill Nichols, Oneida County Dive Team Leader.
Nichols says the team responds to an average of 10 calls per year. Just over half of those calls are usually to retrieve evidence- or bodies. But in cooler months they have a better chance of pulling someone out alive.
"…We have a good hour to work with for that ‘golden hour'. Hopefully we can pull someone out, and the survival rate is extremely high for that first hour," said Nichols.
Normally a person dies in about 6 minutes without air, but in cold water the body drastically conserves oxygen, especially in children. That gives rescuers a significant window to save a life. And makes drills like these, extremely important.
"If we can put them underwater in scenarios similar to what they may get called out to it'll increase their efficiency quite a bit," said Nichols.
Dive team members keep all their equipment in their cars, and pagers on hand ready to respond at a moment's notice.
If the county board eliminates the dive team's budget, they would hire independent divers on a "per case" basis to retrieve bodies. But as Nichols' says, that leaves an important function, dead in the water.
"The rescue portion would be gone. The opportunity to get someone out of the water in a short amount of time and produce a viable patient for our medic crews, would be gone."
Next week the county board will finalize next year's budget. The team hopes they'll survive budget cuts, and help drowning victims survive too.
Written By: Kailey Burton