Last updated: April 25. 2014 11:37PM - 1372 Views
By - tkellar@timesleader.com

Members of the Germania SCUBA & Water Rescue Team perform river training.
Members of the Germania SCUBA & Water Rescue Team perform river training.
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DURYEA — The Germania Scuba & Water Rescue Team has entered into a league of its own locally.

The team became the only one of its kind in Luzerne County to obtain an accreditation as a Type 3a Swiftwater and Flood Management Team.

Type 3a teams have four members with one squad leader. Lead officer Len Basara said the team is now able to be transported by the Pennsylvania Helicopter Aquatic Rescue Team to respond to incidents beyond the area.

Ryan Walt, boating and watercraft safety manager for the state Fish and Boat Commission, said accredited teams also can be called to large-scale disasters.

The team passed an inspection in January to receive the distinction. Basara said the feat will “set a standard” for water rescue teams in the area. He said getting accredited is voluntary and is a testament to the training that the team has.

“Up to this point in time, there was really no standards,” Basara said referring to standards for water rescues. “Although this program is voluntary at this time, it’s at least a start in the right direction,” he said.

Basara said the accreditation must be renewed every three years when the team is inspected.

The Pennsylvania Voluntary Rescue Service Recognition program gives the accreditations. Organizations that participate in the program include the state Fish and Boat Commission, Office of the State Fire Commissioner, state Department of Health and the Emergency Management Agency.

There are five types of teams — flood evacuation, swiftwater types 4a, 3a, 2a and 1a. Each team has different requirements from the number of members on the team to the type of equipment and training each team has.

Basara hopes the team will eventually become a Swiftwater Type 2a team, which is a six-member team.

Luzerne County Emergency Management Agency Coordinator Stephen Bekanich said he was not aware that the Duryea-based team had been testing for the certification. He said the county has worked with it for a number of years, and he congratulated the group on the accomplishment.

Basara said the team’s operations can include jobs both above and under the water and range from flood evacuations, evidence recovery and rescuing people trapped on ice to responding to drownings.

The Germania Scuba & Water Rescue Team suited up during the flood in September 2011. The Susquehanna River reached record levels and damaged more than 300 residences. The team rescued residents who had refused to evacuate and became surrounded by high water.

On average, Basara said, the team responds to 12 calls a year, but that number can fluctuate.

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