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Local Boat Training Aims To Make Country More Prepared For Disasters

A weeklong training on the Niantic River sponsored by the Department of Homeland Security aims to have municipalities, feds on the same page.

For the past week, East Lyme and Waterford police officers, along with police officers and firemen from across the state, were trained by the National Association of Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) on the fundamental skills for marine patrols.

The goal of NASBLA is to get every department in the country to be "using the same language and be working off the same playbook,” according to NSBLA Senior Instructor Jack Martin. Martin said if every department across the country follows the same techniques and uses the same language, it will greatly increase response efficiency in natural disasters and even during a terrorist attack.

“What we are doing is turning these crafts into force multiplies,” said Martin, who led the training this week for the local emergency responders. “We want everybody all on the same page, working together.”

The basic concept is that if there is a natural disaster or terrorist attack, there is not always going to be a military presence around, he said. If the United States Department of Homeland Security can supply local departments with adequate watercrafts and train them to use the same techniques, the departments can work seamlessly together and with the federal government to manage an emergency, Martin said.

That is only in extreme cases though, he said. Most of the time, the departments will be doing water rescues and water enforcement, because the Coast Guard is overwhelmed with calls, Martin said.

“The Coast Guard realized it was getting too many service calls,” he said. “We want to give (local municipalities) the skills to do those fundamental calls.”

The Process

All week, police officers and firemen attended training on the Niantic River and Long Island Sound learning those fundamental skills. For example, on Thursday, the group learned how to save a person who had fallen overboard and how to tow a boat that was in distress.

Training is also available on how to create security zones, which would be used to protect anything from Millstone Power Station to a boat carrying the president, Martin said. There, officers would learn “non-compliant vessel techniques,” aka dealing with boats that purposely breach those security zones, which includes shooting out a boat’s motor with a special bullet, Martin said.

This week, Waterford Police Officers Alex Flanagan and Ryan Spearrin took the training, as they try to become qualified to be “captains” of Waterford's Waterford Police Lt. David Burton said he has six officers qualified to captain Waterford’s new police boat, and if Spearrin and Flanagan pass their test, the department will have eight.

About That Boat

In 2011, the Waterford Police Department secured to buy its new, 28-foot police boat, which has been in the water since this spring, Burton said. Along with buying the boat, the grant paid for the training the officers were going through this week, he said.

Burton said the new boat has been a huge upgrade compared to the department’s previous boat, which was bought from a private citizen in the 1990s for $25,000. The new boat has new features like an infrared imager, a rubber collar, an air filtration system so police officers can stay in the cabin safely during times when the air is not breathable and the boat can handle much choppier waters, among other upgrades, Burton said.

Additionally, the boat serves Waterford and East Lyme police officers, where both departments used to have their own boats. East Lyme and Waterford officers now do water patrol from March to November three times a week, where before Waterford would only do it twice a week from Memorial Day to Labor Day, Burton said.

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