Three Groups of Town Employees Practice to Make Springs Brook Park Safe

July 17, 2023
Responders from the Bedford Fire Department, Bedford Police Department and Lifeguards at Springs Brook Park took part in a simulated emergency last week to practice and improve an emergency response if needed. Staff Photo.

Three town agencies worked together last week to make sure Springs Brook Park is prepared in an emergency.

Safety has been at the top of Mary Gallant’s priority list since becoming Springs Brook Park Director last year. 

Once per week, each week the park is open, Gallant and the team of Springs Brook Park lifeguards meet before opening hours to run through emergency safety drills and scenarios. 

“It’s important to practice regularly and practice a realistic situation, so if an emergency occurs everyone has been through what to do, knows their roles, and has been through it enough to be aware of what’s going on in the moment instead of just trying to remember theoretical steps,” Gallant explained. 

Lifeguards practiced a methodical team search of the man-made swimming pond during the simulation. Staff Photo.

And during last week’s safety training, Gallant, along with participation coordinated by Fire Department Captain Mark Sullivan and Lt. John Perry, and Police Department Lt. Richard Vitale, added another layer to the training. The practice included calling in Bedford first responders from the Fire Department and Police Department. 

“It’s important in an emergency to work as a team, so it’s important to practice as a team,” Lt. Perry said. “This is a great opportunity to get all of the agencies that might be involved in an emergency working together.” 

Springs Brook Park is a town-owned, manmade filtered swimming pond located on the outskirts of the VA Bedford Health Care System on Springs Road. The swimming pond includes a zero-depth entry portion with a concrete bottom and deeper sandy-bottomed section with dock and lap lanes. The sandy sections have a depth of around seven feet and a limited murky visibility. The facility, run by the Recreation Department, includes a playground, splash pad, bathhouse, picnic area, and other activity areas surrounded by woods, so the staff must prepare for several emergency scenarios. 

“It’s important to know what information they [Police and Fire Department responders] might need to know and what questions they’d ask if there were a real emergency,” Gallant and Recreation Department Coordinator Raeann Gembis told the 13 lifeguards as they prepared for the simulation last Wednesday morning.  

In last week’s training, a full-sized CPR dummy had been submerged prior to the crew’s arrival so the location would be unknown. The lifeguards rehearsed how they would respond from Gallant reporting to a guard stationed at a chair, simulating announcements to clear the water, searching the water (the team worked methodically, submerging in a line arms distance apart to comb the bottom of the pond a few feet at a time), calling for assistance, administering life support, and talking to the Fire and Police department responders. The police and fire department rehearsed showing up to answer the call (ambulance, two ladder trucks, and two other vehicles), and assessing the location and situation. 

Second-year lifeguard Margaree Hybl spotted the dummy underwater during the search. She said she went into the training excited (Gallant commented many of the lifeguards were nervous), but Hybl said she was “terrified” when she happened upon the dummy – for a moment, she “forgot it was practice and screamed underwater.” Her training quickly kicked in and she pulled the dummy up and alerted the line of lifeguards and the team shifted from search to lifesaving mode. 

The teams debriefed following the response and discussed any improvements or changes that would quicken response time in an emergency. Staff Image.

Following the simulation, the three groups debriefed as a team on what was done well, and what could be improved. The fire department EMTs suggested the use of a backboard and that a backup AED be within reach. They appreciated that the lifeguards took turns for CPR (compressions may not be deep enough if exhaustion sets in). The police and fire department responders agreed they could be called immediately if someone is reported missing – they’d rather turn around after a false emergency (many of the park emergencies are kids that escaped a caregiver’s sight, but are quickly found at the playground or in line at the concession stand) than arrive a few minutes later than necessary in a lifesaving scenario. 

Not just in a true emergency, but also for this these simulations, Gallant said, “I appreciate we are in a town that we can work together and the Police and Fire Departments not only make time but also thinks it’s important to practice and improve on a response should we need it.”

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