St. Johns County Fire Rescue (SJCFR) took delivery of a new vessel in August after being awarded a Federal Port Security Grant in 2015 for its purchase.
Dubbed “Marine 12,” the new vessel will be used as a rapid response tool for water rescue, EMS emergencies and marine firefighting efforts on all waterways and near shore Atlantic waters within the county. According to SJCFR Captain Jeremy Robshaw, the addition of Marine 12 will alleviate the volume of the department’s emergencies as well as increase the types of emergencies it can respond to.
“SJCFR has built a strong and professional marine rescue response program within the department,” he said. “The addition of this vessel to our mission response provides us the ability to safely and efficiently mitigate a variety of emergencies.”
The acquisition comes after an intensive procedure; prior to receiving the grant, SJCFR was subject to a detailed application process that included three months of research, documentation, writing and collecting data to prove eligibility based on a stringent set of guidelines. The department then formed a committee to develop policy, training and specifications for the new vessel construction. After deciding on a vendor – SAFE Boats International – Marine 12 became a reality.
“SJCFR is proud to have been chosen for funding through this competitive federal grant program,” Robshaw said. “Our application clearly showed the need for this vessel and the enhanced response capability it would provide.”
The new vessel, which is the first firefighting vessel placed into service by the department, was a much needed and welcome improvement over existing equipment. In addition to being capable of pumping more than 450 gallons of water per minute during firefighting operations, Marine 12 can provide search and rescue response to vessels and missing swimmers both in- and off-shore.
“Previously our vessels were limited to only near-shore rescue capability,” Robshaw added, noting the inclusion of GPS, sonar, radar and forward looking infrared (FLIR) in the Marine 12’s body of search and rescue tools. “The new vessel will be a fully outfitted emergency medical response resources carrying a full complement of advanced life support equipment while being staffed with paramedics.”
Aside from improving performance and emergency response, Marine 12 also provides the department with the added benefit of improved safety conditions for SJCFR personnel in high-risk situations – a high priority of the department and Fire Rescue Chief Carl Shank, according to Robshaw.
“The nature of responding to emergencies creates situations where personnel are asked to take risk in order to protect the general public and also mitigate the incident at hand,” Robshaw said. “The technology and equipment this vessel represents allow us to both keep our personnel safe and give them the most appropriate resource available to provide rescue, emergency medical care and firefighting operations in various hazardous marine conditions.”
The 29-foot SAFE vessel is now moored in a local marina and is available for response to marine emergencies at all times. The department is currently in the final phase of design for a permanent, secure docking facility to house Marine 12 that is expected to be completed by summer of 2017. The facility will also house other public safety vessels at the Vilano boat ramp. Construction of the facility was made possible through the Federal Port Security Grant program and local matching funds provided by the St. Augustine Port Waterway and Beach District.