Emergency Crews Train For Swift Water Rescue

WASHINGTON COUNTY, Tenn. - Emergency crews don't have to think twice about saving a life, but they do have to train for it. That training is key when it comes to learning new techniques and facing new dangers.

A fun day on the river can turn deadly in a matter of seconds. Swift water can take lives.

That's why emergency personnel from across our region are becoming students and learning how to battle the rapids and make successful rescues.

"We teach them how to use the water to their advantage to be able to swim in the water effectively. [We] teach them how they can identify rocks and obstacles and strainers and dangers to them and teach them how to avoid those," said Dan Wheeley, the class instructor.

We found out students will learn 36 different skill sets. They can range from turning over a capsized boat, to setting up a fire hose barricade in the water, and even dealing with a panicked victim.

These skills aren't easy, either.

"I never really realized how, how much force that that water does have," said Ric Chapman, a student from Sullivan County EMS.

?I can only imagine it at flood level you know, and it gives me a whole new appreciation on how to look at it," said Jeffery Lipford, a student taking his skills back to the Johnson County Rescue Squad.

This brute physical labor isn't in vain. We learned the skills are mostly geared for flood rescues, but as the summer months approach, they?ll be used for swimmers and fishermen all too often.

"We have people out there fishing get out there on islands. They turn the water on, it comes up, and these guys can use the skills they learn in class to be effective in these rescues," Wheeley explained.

Those are rescues they hope they never have to see.

But when that call inevitably comes, it's all about preparation. "Hopefully one day I can save somebody's life," Lipford said.

The swift water rescue class teaches students from eight different counties in our region. It's funded by a district grant from the Department of Homeland Security.

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