When it comes to water emergencies it is a battle against the clock. Within two minutes of going underwater a person can lose consciousness. Brain damage can occur after four minutes. In Pflugerville, firefighters will be the first to jump in. The department recently put crews to the test and FOX 7's Noelle Newton was there.
Pflugerville firefighters head into Lake Pflugerville. They will attempt a 300 meter swim in 10 minutes over an area that is 40 feet deep. Further complicating things, is a thick growth of the aquatic plant--hydrilla.
"For people who don't swim on a regular basis 300 meters is quite a distance, especially in open water” said Captain Robert Ortiz.
This is an elected challenge. Some firefighters choose to swim 100 meters. But everyone must qualify for rescue swimming.
"We do this just to identify our guys. Who are the guys on the truck who can make that distance swim without any issues? So if we can have a good handful of guys on every apparatus who can make that swim, then that's not a difficult decision. Hey there's the victim, you guys get your gear on and go get them,” said Ortiz.
After the swim test is over firefighters focus on methods of pulling struggling swimmers to shore.
Firefighters practice throwing a buoy to a patient and loading them onto a large flotation device. The training is critical. Should a swimmer go under--firefighters will be first to respond.
"The police may arrive, but the police have on all their gear. They can't abandon their gear. They wait for us to get on scene and we would head out there,” said Ortiz.
Lt. Robert Ortiz says the emergency service district, is called to the lake four to five times a week. In the summer that number increases.
In 2009, a teen drown after attempting to swim across the lake with a friend. That is the only fatality Ortiz is aware of.
"We've been very lucky in that we've been called out here quick enough. That we've been able to help the victim or people have been cognizant enough to say hey, I need to realize what I'm doing here. It's potentially dangerous,” said Ortiz.
For those who plan to head to lake this summer, or any body of water for that matter, Ortiz has this advice, "My recommendation is to have good situational awareness. Be prepared. Don't come out here alone. At least have somebody who's going to come out here and pay attention and have eyes on you so that in the event you become too exhausted someone can say we need help, quickly."