By Jessica Wettig
The Lake of Egypt Fire Department Dive Team spent their day obtaining a Full Face Mask certification at Mermet Springs in Belknap on Wed., Sept. 12.
Dive Team Leader Brady Crane said the team formed in Oct. 2017, because a group of firefighters recognized the need in the area. A group got together, and presented the idea to the Lake of Egypt Fire Protection District Board of Trustees.
From there, the board was very supportive. They allot funding where the department needs it.
The training for a Dive Team consists of any water-related emergency incident. Other types of training include Swift Water, which is only above water and does not include going under water like the Dive Team is trained for.
The department’s coverage area alone includes five of the lakes in Southern Illinois: Crab Orchard Lake, Devil’s Kitchen, Little Grassy Lake, Lake of Egypt and Herrin City Lake.
He said an average of five or more water-related incidents occur every year. The incidents include a variety of types, including body recovery, evidence recovery and incidents involving submerged vehicles.
Without a local Dive Team, another one has to be called in from another area—the closest to Lake of Egypt being in Carterville. Having a local team creates more convenience, and a faster response time for emergencies.
The Fire Department itself consists of about 35 members, and the Dive Team consists of eight of those members.
The team seeks to obtain various certifications. Crane said they hope to become state deployable—where they can be deployed to national events, such as hurricanes.
On Wednesday, the team attended classes for their Full Face Mask certification. This training consists not only wearing a facemask, but learning about the hardwired technology in the masks that help the team members communicate under water.
Crane said this increases safety and makes the members more efficient.
The technology works with a communication box placed above water. Team members can communicate up to 200 feet from the box.
Crane said his training has been very interesting, and that Mermet Springs has been very helpful with the things the team needs. He said there aren’t many dive shops in the area.
“It’s been a very eye-opening experience,” Crane said.
Mermet Springs Owner Glen Faith said the locations opened 22 years ago, after his retirement from the Secretary of State Police Dive Team. He said he has lots of skill sets from his career, including being a certified dive instructor, and he sought to share those skill sets.
Faith said Mertmet Springs is a professional training destination, where people come from all over the nation to attend training. The location works with teams, families and a variety of groups.
He said the Lake of Egypt Dive Team has “tremendous potential.” He said they have quality equipment and the drive to learn the job and do it well.
“They have their heads on right,” he said.