When Tony Piazza took a job at City Winery on the Chicago Riverwalk, he didn’t anticipate needing emergency response training.
But now first responders are training Riverwalk vendors and concession staff to keep pedestrians safe due to the unique safety challenges posed by the location.
“You know, we don’t expect people to go into the water, but it definitely happens from time to time,” Piazza said.
The Chicago Fire Department’s Marine and Dive Operations Unit responds to over 250 water-related calls each year, and they typically have to remove people from the water on 100 of those calls.
Piazza said that when someone falls in the water there is a huge amount of panic—and it’s that panic that city administrators want to avoid, so they have been teaching Riverwalk business employees what to do if they happen to be the first person on the scene.
Administrators are teaching Riverwalk employees everything from tossing river buoys to communicating locations and critical information to dispatchers and first responders.
“We don’t expect the public to be true first responders, but there are certainly some actions they can take where they don’t but themselves in any danger,” said Ron Dorneker, deputy district chief of CFD marine and dive operations. “Yet [bystanders] can be very effective in helping us rescue someone from being in the water and drowning.
Michelle Woods, project manager at the city Department of Fleet and Facility Management, said that while it would be ideal if the employees never had to deal with these situations, it is necessary for them to know how to respond should a crisis arise.
“We know there are circumstances that people need to be able to respond to,” Woods said.
This comes after two City Winery employees, Jarmond Sharkey and Amaurillino Garcia on St. Patrick’s Day saved a young man who fell to the Riverwalk from Wacker Drive. Their previous CFD training helped them act quickly and decisively to “make a huge difference in the victim’s outcome,” according to a CFD press release.
CFD honored Sharkey and Garcia with a ceremony on Friday complete with water cannons.