PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The chilling scenes of the Washington Boulevard flood last August remain vivid in the memory of city officials — as does the resolve that flood waters should never take another life.
To that end, the city, the water and sewer authority and PennDOT are moving ahead on several fronts to prevent floods and make this stretch safer.
In the near future, a yellow box on Washington Boulevard will become a swinging gate and in times of flooding, the road will be shut down to all traffic.
But the lesson of the tragedy goes beyond Washington Boulevard to other potential flood sites, and in training sessions, Pittsburgh Police Sgt. Barry Budd says the city is now training all firefighters, police and paramedics in water safety and the basics of water rescue.
Budd: “It gives them that knowledge of what to do instead of showing up and not being sure what to do.”
Andy Sheehan: “And they can save lives.”
Budd: “Absolutely save lives. It’s going to make a huge difference.”
In the rescue training, all public safety personnel will approximate real life conditions by jumping into the bracing in cold water of the Peabody High School pool weighted down by their full uniforms and their equipment.
At poolside, others learn how to use lifeline throw bags to effectuate a bankside rescue.
The comprehensive training program is the brainchild of Pittsburgh Public Safety Director Mike Huss who says 180 personnel will be trained in advanced water rescue, giving city round the clock protection.
“Knowing our people and when you equip and train them for a job they perform wonderful things and I’m sure that over time they’re going to save some lives,” he said.