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Fire Departments Are Learning Specialized Rescue Swimming

Fire Departments Are Learning Specialized Rescue Swimming

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By Allison G. S. Knox
Contributor, EDM Digest

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.

Allison G. S. Knox Passionate about the issues affecting ambulances and disaster management, Allison focuses on Emergency Management and Emergency Medical Services policy. Allison has taught at the undergraduate level since 2010. Prior to teaching, she worked in a level-one trauma center emergency department and for a member of Congress in Washington, D.C. She holds four master’s degrees in Emergency Management, National Security Studies, International Relations, and History; a Graduate Certificate in Homeland Security; and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science. Allison is an Emergency Medical Technician, Lifeguard, and Lifeguard Instructor, and is trained in Technical Large Animal Emergency Rescue. She serves on the Board of Trustees for Pi Gamma Mu International Honor Society as Chancellor of the Southeast Region, Vice Chair of the Tactical Emergency Medical Support Committee with the International Public Safety Association, and serves as the Advocacy Coordinator of Virginia with the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians. She is also a member of several committees including the Editorial Committee with APCO, the Rescue Task Force Committee with the International Public Safety Association, and the Advocacy Committee with the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians. She also serves as Chair of the Leadership Development Program for the 2020 Pi Gamma Mu Triennial Convention. Allison has published several book reviews and continues to write about issues affecting ambulances, emergency management, and homeland security.