by the Rev. David M. Rider, President & Executive Director
As part of its commitment to maritime welfare, SCI manages a charity called the Life Saving Benevolent Association (LSBA). Founded in 1849 in the tri-state area, LSBA aims to recognize and reward courage in the rescue of human life at sea or on navigable waters; encourage training in seamanship, rescue methods and resuscitation; and perform other services of a charitable and educational nature.
Since its first awards ceremony in 1850, LSBA has been privileged to honor the lifesaving efforts of more than 1,000 police officers, firefighters and civilians. This year, the LSBA honored 14 individuals for their participation in water rescues.
As LSBA President, I recently spent a day with Marine 1, the first Marine Company formed in the City of New York, on their new Fireboat 343. Named in honor of the 343 firefighters who perished on September 11, 2001, and housed just south of Chelsea Piers, the vessel responds to waterborne emergencies in New York City while on call for the most challenging marine fires along the East Coast. Among the top marine firefighting vessels in the world, Fireboat 343’s many water cannons are controlled by joystick from the bridge while its main deck houses an advanced biohazard decontamination center.
While its equipment reflects the City’s great commitment to waterfront safety, the Marine 1 crew commanded my great admiration and respect. In the firehouse itself, they embodied great teamwork and camaraderie while remaining ready to depart on a moment’s notice.
LSBA celebrates FDNY Marine 1 because of its continuous response to waterborne emergencies in New York Harbor, the Hudson and East Rivers. In addition to distressed recreational boaters, Marine 1 responds to emotionally disturbed persons (EDPs in emergency parlance) who jump from the City’s bridges in desperation.
During my visit, we were dispatched on an EDP call at the George Washington Bridge. A three-man crew—commander, pilot and diver—sped northbound at 45 knots in an aluminum speedboat with the commander in radio communication with dispatch as the diver put on a special water suit. Like many emergency situations, information had to be clarified en route. As we arrived at the bridge in the rain, all crew eyes were on the water. Tide calculations provided clues to where they might encounter the person. Fortunately, our run ended when Port Authority police apprehended the person on the bridge.
Firefighters, police officers and Coast Guard personnel encounter challenges like these in their daily work. They train constantly, gain incredible experience and still must cope with the human dynamics of face-to-face encounters with disturbed persons or fatally injured victims of waterborne crises.
The LSBA celebrates the heroism of these public servants and civilian Good Samaritans who respond selflessly to their fellow citizens in need.
Legendary maritime photographer Gregory Thorp accompanied me on the day. Visit our Photos section to view his images of FDNY Marine 1 in action.