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Ferry Crews Often Become Heroes on the Bay

September 1, 2020 12:00 AM
Ferry crews regularly perform emergency drills

In addition to delivering first-class service to our customers every day, our Ferry staff act as eyes and ears on the Bay and provide critical emergency response to those in distress. Ferry crews regularly train for rescues, so they are prepared when coming across a kayaker adrift in the shipping lanes, a sailboat taking on water, or an exhausted swimmer far from shore. Golden Gate Ferry also plays a lead role in helping other agencies train for emergencies that may occur on the Bay, such as a chemical spill or a security-related event with casualties.

The San Francisco Bay is a beautiful recreational area for amateur and experienced sailors alike, but weather conditions can change rapidly, catching some in dangerous situations. For example, a family of kayakers, paddling from Tiburon to Angel Island, were caught by surprise when their trip transformed from a leisurely outing into a fight for their lives. Winds and sea spray pushed them into the shipping lanes late in the afternoon, with darkness approaching. The ferry crew, seeing the struggling kayakers, offered assistance and were able to get the family out of the water shortly before nightfall.

Another rescue involved a distress call from a recreational boat adrift on the San Francisco Bay. As the M.V. Mendocino approached the boat, the crew called out to see if anyone was aboard. A woman responded, obviously in pain, and asked for assistance due to what she described as a broken back. Crew members assisted the woman until the U.S. Coast Guard and Tiburon Fire Department arrived at the scene. 

In addition to rescuing individuals, Golden Gate Ferry has played a lead role in preparing the Bay Area for a major disaster by hosting large drills to test interagency coordination, communications, and planning effectiveness. The drills have included the Coast Guard; the Marin County Sherriff's Department; Department of Homeland Security; Federal Bureau of Investigation; National Park Service; California Maritime Academy; marine units from Alameda, Contra Costa, and Marin counties; as well as police and fire departments from Marin, San Francisco, Contra Costa, and Alameda counties.

The drills test tactical responses to security-related events occurring on the San Francisco Bay and have included exercises simulating a chemical spill, an earthquake, as well as a mass-casualty incident resulting in fire, smoke, and passenger injuries. This ongoing training not only helps hone the skills of our staff, but it solidifies agency partnerships that are invaluable in maintaining a highly effective safety and security posture within the Bay Area.

Due to regular training, our ferry crews are prepared to excel in a multitude of emergency scenarios, whether it involves a lone sailor or a large number of people. Our passengers can relax and enjoy the ride knowing that our Ferry employees are some of the best trained on the Bay.

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