U.S. Secret Service agents have to be ready for any possible scenario as they travel far and wide protecting the President. And that could include “man overboard” water rescues or a search for victims in the water.
So where can Secret Service train for these possibilities? The Chesapeake Bay, of course, with the help of the Anne Arundel County Fire Department’s fire boat and technical rescue and dive companies.
In June, Secret Service conducted a rescue swimming course on the Bay where agents could practice their open water skills. Bay Bulletin spoke with Anne Arundel Fire Department Battalion Chief David Chen, who says the department has been helping with the Secret Service water rescue program for the last 12 years.
The agents have joined Anne Arundel Fire at their training center and also on the Bay, using fire boats from Cape St. Claire and Shady Side as well as the dive company based in Bay Ridge.
“They usually meet us at Sandy Point and we’ll go out on the Bay and they practice things such has man overboard drills, and basic boating skills but man overboard drills and locating a victim in the water, accessing them in the water, recovering them back to the boat, swimming in the open water versus the pool,” Chen explains.
A real water rescues an agent might face could take place anywhere in the world, but the proximity to Washington, D.C. makes Annapolis ideal.
“We’re the closest body of water that’s an open body of water for them to train in and with our availability of the boats and our inner agency cooperation that we’ve established over the years, they come out and ride with us on the boat,” says Chen.
It’s important for agents to experience the wave action seen in the open Bay like you’d find off Sandy Point. And conducting rescues off a boat is a lot different than training on something stationary, like a pool deck.
And the long-term relationship with Secret Service has some benefit to the fire department, too, Chen says.
“I think it’s a great partnership. We help them out. We do have the Naval Academy here, so if there’s something happening here they can give us a heads up and call and talk to us.”
–Meg Walburn Viviano & Cheryl Costello