Local Police Officers Jump Into Water Survival Training

By  | 

PANAMA CITY BEACH-- Instead of spending their Saturday relaxing in the pool, a group of Panama City Beach police officers were training in it.

Several officers jumped in the pool at Frank Brown Park for hands-on survival training. While they were in the company of their peers, they said the intense training was no day at the park.

Instructors with Survival Systems USA taught Panama City Beach SWAT and Marine units basic steps for underwater survival.

Their training is called water egress. It's aimed at helping them stay calm and get themselves out of vehicles or aircraft that has gone into water.

Officers were strapped into a floating, caged chair and flipped upside down in the water to simulate being submerged and disoriented under water.

The officers said it was challenging and, at times, stressful.

"Keep your head," Officer Poki Pala advised. "It's gonna suck."

Instructor Richard Martin also taught basic steps to combat hypothermia, breath from an air tank upside down in the water and create human chains to help people move and stay together in open water.

Martin said that each year there are between 300 and 500 vehicles that have incidents involving water and that most people don't know what to do to get themselves out.

"When the car goes in the water," Martin said, "it's front heavy. They'll release their belt, then follow the air pocket to the back of the vehicle. There's no way out back there."

Martin said this training isn't just for military members or law enforcement officers, but anyone who lives near bodies of water.

"We live around water," Sgt. Emily Melton said. "So this is a scenario that could happen to anyone of a vehicle in the water or a boat capsizing in the water. Anything like that, this teaches you. So it's very good training, especially when you live around this much water."

"It's something I can do, if I'm ever in a situation like this, to keep myself calm," Pala said. "I can say 'alright, I know what to do.' I know how to survive this and it's going to be alright."