If you happened upon Tempe’s Town Lake Marina just after 6PM on that fateful evening in May, 2017 you would have thought a bomb exploded just outside the condominiums that hugs the lake on the north. There were fire trucks, ambulances, and police cars jamming the marina from the launch ramp to almost the end of the parking lot. News trucks were just pulling up and eager reporters with grim faces were making their way to the boat that bobbed strangely upside down near the dock.
No, it wasn’t a bomb, it was a dragon boat that had capsized. And to make matters worse, the boat’s paddlers were special needs teens and adults who were relatively new to the sport. Even though the coach and steer person were experienced and had given the safety instruction before leaving the dock, several of the paddlers panicked and tried to swim to shore rather than staying with the boat which is the protocol.
Miraculously, nobody was injured, or much worse.
All of the paddlers were bundled in warm blankets and the news crews filed a “good news” human interest story rather than a story with a much grimmer ending.
Among the chaos a small silver lining was that the Arizona Dragon Boat Association board members that were there realized that if someone had drowned, or nearly drowned, the people who could help them immediately, before the paramedics arrived did not have the necessary training to do so. The rules for certified steers in the Association specifically state that steers must have a current CPR training certification, but at that time, few if any actually did.
So in February of 2018, the board voted to pay for CPR training for up to 26 steers, coaches, and safety officers who wanted to attend. One of the board members was assigned to set up the classes hire the instructor, rent the room and notify the Associations coaches and steers. It was quickly learned that the City of Tempe does not offer CPR training for citizens as a normal course of business. The American Red Cross offers an online course for $65 per person. But we wanted a hands-on training with specific instruction for boating situations. Fortunately, there is a firefighter who teaches Tempe’s internal classes for Firefighters and other city employees who was willing to get the dragon boaters certified.
The classes were held at the Tempe Escalante Center on June 28th and July 15th and lasted 4 hours on each of those days. Both classes were at capacity of 13 people. They included lecture time, films and slide shows, and hands-on with CPR dummies in all sizes, adult, youth, and even infant. Everyone got to practice administering CPR under the watchful eye of the firefighter/instructor.
The feedback from the captains, coaches, and steers that attended was overwhelmingly positive. They said that they feel confident that if there is ever another incident on the lake, our members can rest assured that someone on the boat will know how to administer CPR until Paramedics arrive. A silver lining if ever there was one!
– submitted by John Glitsos 8/15/2018