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First responders from the Atlantic Highlands First Aid and Atlantic Highlands Fire Department responded to a boater in distress call during a large-scale water rescue drill Sunday, June 25.

An emergency call for a vessel taking on water as it headed to the Leonardo State Marina came in while the joint training was underway off the beach in Atlantic Highlands. Immediately, crews from both organizations, using boats and jet skis, headed toward Leonardo. Fortunately, the boater made it to the marina without incident before the teams arrived and all passengers were safe.

Sunday’s drill was part of a two-day Surface Water Rescue Boat Operations class taught by Safety and Survival Training, which included one evening of classwork followed by a full day on the water.

“During the summer months, we have an extremely active harbor and we need to be prepared for all types of emergencies,” said AHFAS Chief Jerry Pandolfo. “It is also critical that we work together with our colleagues in the Fire Department because when an emergency happens, we will all be in it together.”

“It is important to have drills like this to retain our knowledge of rescue procedures, the types of equipment we have and the ability to properly use that equipment in an emergency,” said AHFD chief, Brian Sheehan.

On Sunday, first responders trained to rescue people from the bay; they learned how to transfer them safely onto various watercraft, and how to get them additional care. Participants also worked heavily on boat and Jet Ski handling techniques.

“Being a dual team with the combination of fire and first aid, our members were able to work and practice with each other,” said Sheehan. “New members were shown how to properly operate our equipment and veteran members were able to practice their skills. Being that a real outside emergency came in during the drill, we were shown some tips that other departments use that we were able to adopt to fit our needs in a heartbeat.”

The Atlantic Highlands Fire Department and the Atlantic Highlands First Aid Squad are both all-volunteer organizations.  For information on how to become part of the fire department, call the non-emergency number 732-291-2002 or find it on Facebook. For information on the AHFAS call the non-emergency number 732-291-8118 or find us on Facebook, Twitter or online at

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