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Texas Emergency Management ONLINE 2017 Vol. 64 No. 7

Swiftwater Rescue Training

In September of 2015, the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) instituted a water safety program for first response field personnel. The water safety program was created following the tragic deaths of law enforcement officers who died while responding to emergencies in areas inundated with flood waters. Jessica Hollis, a Travis County Deputy, lost her life while on patrol during a flash flood in western Travis County and Tarrant County Deputy Krystal Salazar was swept away while attempting to rescue a stranded motorist. In Texas, flooding emergencies top the list of natural disasters that first responders must cope with. DPS understands that by providing proactive education, the dangers of working around flooded areas can be significantly reduced. The skills learned in the water safety program can save the lives of responding personnel.

The DPS water safety program team partnered with Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service (TEEX) to develop an online water safety awareness course for citizens and first responders across Texas. The course is available at no cost and can be found at Preparing Texas. The course covers recommended information from the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) on the dangers associated with moving water and flood events. In conjunction with the online course, there are four hands-on Swiftwater Safety and Awareness courses that address various levels of response that occur during a flood event.

The Swiftwater Safety and Awareness course is intended for all field personnel who may find themselves near moving water in conjunction with their duties. The power and danger of moving water is an essential concept that every first responder must understand both for their own safety and that of the citizens they serve.

Along with the swiftwater safety awareness courses, DPS has created training courses for swiftwater rescue, rescue boat operations and helicopter rescue swimmer. These courses were created in order to help responders develop a specialized skill set and enhance public safety in Texas.

Specialized tools are also an asset when working in swiftwater conditions. In addition to training, each student who completes a hands-on class receives a personal protective package to help them safely perform their duties in the field.

DPS has not only been fortunate to support the needs of their own, they have also been able to assist several of their public safety partners with training for flooding disaster response. Local jurisdictional personnel across Texas have also been able to take advantage of essential life safety training at no cost to their agency. Finally, combined training events have been conducted to improve continuity of operations between state partners. All of these proactive steps help to promote safety and preserve life across the state.

Lynn Burttschell
Special Operations Manager
Texas Division of Emergency Management

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