St. Louis-area first responders undergoing swift water training this weekend

ST. LOUIS – If swift-moving waters sweep you away because of flash flooding this weekend, hundreds of St. Louis-area firefighters are specially trained to come to your rescue.

This is the 25th anniversary for swift water training for first responders. It all began right after the Great Flood of 1993.

When flash flooding is in the forecast, firefighters pull out a special plan.

“This is our tactical action plan for emergency operation related to swift water operations,” said Mike Thiemann, spokesman for the Metro West Fire Protection District.

It’s a plan involving 1,000 area firefighters who are swift water trained. Between 30 and 40 fire departments have a higher level of readiness plus there are five federally funded regional teams ready to go.

“Our level of readiness and preparedness, we’re where we need to be, we’re waiting to see what Mother Nature is going to throw at us, and then we’ll respond accordingly,” said Les Crews, coordinator of emergency swift water responders.

Fire departments have special equipment to wear and use in an emergency.

Rescues are very dangerous for first responders. Officials said it’s not uncommon for firefighters to drown during a rescue, sometimes falling into an unseen open sewer where a manhole cover has been removed.

“You step into it and you get into that system and you’re not coming out for quite a while,” Thiemann said.

To stay safe, follow the advice you may already know: turn around, don’t drown.

“That water is powerful you are not going to win the battle mother nature is in charge and hopefully you can just survive it,” Crews said.

First responders said six inches of water on a road can carry away a car or sweep a person off their feet.

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