OPP, Parks Canada conduct marine safety exercises on local waters

Safety on the waters is enforced by the OPP, and today was a day of training to make sure those waters are safe as can be.

As explained by Southern Georgian Bay OPP detachment staff sergeant Christina Schroeder, members of the OPP marine unit along with Parks Canada staff from Georgian Bay Islands National Park participated in qualification exercises in the waters around Midland Harbour.

“The members are out on the water every day – we have a full-time marine unit – but today is very much a training day,” said Schroeder. “They’ll be out there all day working on scenarios based on search-and-rescue.

“They’re out all the time looking for impaired operation, to make sure everyone’s wearing their life jackets, and other statute violations. However, this (training) is a main component of their function as well.”

Schroeder said the units would rotate through four separate exercises across the region with some taking place near Beausoleil Island and Giant's Tomb.

“We’re lucky enough to have a nice, sunny day, but they’re out there in the very worst of the weather and that’s often when things go wrong, so they have to have this solid base training of experience,” Schroeder noted.

Also in attendance were members of the Midland Penetanguishene Fire Department, standing on the harbour dock and wearing enough technology to safely control their two-foot drone.

First-class firefighter Tim Brummelhuis explained that for the OPP qualification exercises, he and fellow first-class firefighter Tom Collins were asked to take video as the drone was capable of tracking watercraft.

“We have a rescue drone here with a camera on it,” said Brummelhuis. “It’s got three different attachments – a dropper, a speaker, a flashlight – and then the camera with the infrared zoom and all the capabilities.

“During the wintertime, we use it a lot for rescues and seeing what’s out there before we actually walk out onto the ice to make sure we’re actually going in the right direction. We can speak to them as well or drop them a life preserver if they need it,” Brummelhuis added.

As the watercraft departed the harbour, the fire department drone kept pace far above.

Schroeder also stated that safety on the waters was dependent on the public who enjoy time on their vessels.

“When our officers are out on patrol and they flag a boat over,” Schroeder said, “in cooperation, just slow down and stop, be available to answer the officers’ questions.

“Depending on the size of the boats, they may board, and they’ll be looking for offences such as having alcohol on board, open liquor – and most important is a life jacket for every person on board the vessel.”

The OPP reminds the public that if a suspected impaired driver is spotted, please dial 911 or contact the OPP at (888) 310-1122.

Derek Howard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, MidlandToday.ca