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Fire Departments Are Learning Specialized Rescue Swimming

Fire Departments Are Learning Specialized Rescue Swimming

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Editor’s Note: This article first appeared on EDM Digest.

By Allison G. S. Knox, faculty member, American Military University

Specialized water rescue teams are often developed based on hazard and risk mitigation needs. Some departments may have teams trained in swift water rescue, whereas others include members trained in technical large animal emergency rescue or in other types of agricultural-related emergencies. No matter what the specialty, training these teams is costly and requires regular in-service training sessions to keep teams up to date.

Nevertheless, emergencies happen on a regular basis, which justifies rescue agencies to train for specific types of water rescue maneuvers. Lifeguards, for example, routinely rescue distressed ocean swimmers, while Aviation Survival Technicians in the Coast Guard work to rescue distressed swimmers in extraordinary situations, such as fishing vessels in a storm or a capsized motorboat. As a result, fire departments across the country train in rescue swimming to effectively manage specialized water-related 911 emergencies.

Obstacles to Specialized Training

All rescue teams nationwide can benefit from rescue swimming training, but sometimes it is difficult for rescue agencies to justify this specialization. In addition, public safety agency officials are faced with the difficult task of deciding which swimming emergencies their departments should train for.

This can be a particularly difficult decision when risk management is concerned. Often, there is a high risk of losing an individual to drowning. But if these incidents are infrequent, from a simple cost-benefit analysis there is no need to train teams in those types of specialized training.

Rescue Swimming at Arlington Fire Department

A fire department in Washington state recently created a rescue swimming team that just passed a comprehensive evaluation. The Arlington Fire Department’s program is intensive and provides the department with the ability to rescue swimmers in extraordinary situations. Five members of the department received Technician Level Rescue Swimmer certification provided through the Professional Association of Diving Instructors.

Rescue Swimming Could Be Its Own Discipline

Considering the numerous types of water rescue training available, rescue swimming could be its own discipline, similar to the way law enforcement, the fire service and emergency medical services are separate disciplines within public safety.

Nationally, there are numerous types of rescue techniques associated with water: swift water rescue, pool lifeguarding, waterfront lifeguarding, ocean lifeguarding, waterpark lifeguarding and aviation rescue. Any one of these techniques would be valuable for a department to know something about. However, as with various training specialties, it can be difficult to justify the cost to train in a specialty that the department rarely faces.

rescue swimmingAbout the Author: Allison G. S. Knox is a faculty member at American Military University, teaching courses in Emergency and Disaster Management. Her research interests are comprised of emergency management and emergency medical services policy issues. Prior to teaching, Allison worked in a level one trauma center emergency department and for a Member of Congress in Washington, D.C. She holds four Master of Arts degrees in emergency management, international relations, national security studies and history. She is a certified lifeguard, EMT and is also trained in Technical Large Animal Emergency Rescue. Allison currently serves as Advocacy Coordinator of Virginia for NAEMT, Chapter Sponsor for the West Virginia Iota Chapter of Pi Gamma Mu International Honor Society, and Faculty Advisor for the Political Science Scholars. She is also on the Board of Trustees and serves as Chancellor of the Southeast Region for Pi Gamma Mu International Honor Society in the Social Sciences. She can be reached at IPSauthor@apus.edu. For more articles featuring insight from industry experts, subscribe to In Public Safety’s bi-monthly newsletter.



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