CFD encourages visitors on our rivers to be safe
The Columbia Fire Department began its annual swiftwater rescue training exercises on the Saluda River below the Riverbanks Zoo; in anticipation of another busy summer on our many river ways in the Midlands.
The Columbia Fire Department responds to multiple water rescues each year involving reports of persons in distress, trapped on a river island/sandbar, capsized watercraft, etc.; and those numbers increase as the warmer weather approaches.
“As summer activities on and around the rivers in the Midlands increases we want to encourage visitors to be safe as they enjoy all the recreational activities that the rivers have to offer”, stated Chief Jenkins.
Columbia Firefighters responses to approximately 30 swiftwater rescues each year; that average is not including the large increase from the October 2015 Flood.
Chief Jenkins thanks our many partners, such as SCE&G who increases the water flow which provides the necessary water levels and conditions for firefighters to complete their swiftwater training each year. This training supports the Department’s commitment to providing well trained and equipped personnel to be able to respond to any water rescue incident.
Chief Jenkins encourages visitors to the rivers to follow these safety tips:
- Learn to swim. The best thing anyone can do to stay safe in and around the water is to learn to swim–this includes adults and children.
- NEVER SWIM OR BOAT ALONE.
- Tell someone where you are going, when you expect to return, and where to call if you don’t.
- Wear a properly fitted Personal Flotation Device (PFD) at all times when you are in or near the river.
- Be prepared for extremes in weather. Know early signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion and dehydration in hot weather.
- Reduce threat of injury by wearing protective footwear and proper clothing.
- Fish, swim, or wade below dams only during low-flow periods.
- Be aware of your surroundings and plan a quick exit from the water to the nearest bank in case of an emergency.
- Move to a safer area immediately if a siren sounds or strobe lights flash or if you simply notice the river level rising.
- Carry a first aid kit and know how to use it. Take a cell phone in case of emergency.
- Be sure to take water or thirst-quenching drinks. Try to avoid beer and soft drinks as they tend to dehydrate the body and alcohol impairs judgment.
- Be sure your boating skills and experience are equal to the river and the conditions.
- Do not litter.
If you are caught in surging water
Any moving water can be dangerous. If you are caught in the water and swept off your feet, remember the following:
- Drop any items that can weigh you down.
- Stay calm, lie on your back, and keep your feet up and pointed downstream to avoid rocks and foot entrapment.
- Swim on your back with the current and then diagonally across the stream until you reach the shore.
- Do not attempt to stand up until you are in shallow, slow-moving water.
- If you get trapped on an island, stay there and signal for help.