Swift Water Rescue
The Prince William County Department of Fire and Rescue Swift Water Rescue Program began approximately 15 years ago with the realization DFR was participating in risky behaviors while operating in flood waters. The typical incident was motorists becoming stranded while driving through washed out roads. The incidents were generally located in our rural areas of the county with long response times and where just a few Engine Companies were located.
Few citizens in Prince William County know that just a few inches of water has the power to lift a vehicle off the road and carry it downstream.
Our program began to take on steam when Captain Gary Gesling realized our method of operations were risky. He sought training opportunities and partnerships with other personnel in the area facing similar incidents. CPT Gesling developed and implemented a plan, assembled the basic equipment, provided the initial training and received the support of the Operations Chief to continue his efforts.
Training was in the waters of the Potomac River at Great Falls to acclimate personnel to swift water. The Swift Water Rescue Program began to grow with personnel interested in the training opportunities. Ideas also began to be developed to improve the program and expand the capabilities of the Department. Grants were sought to purchase two boats with outboard engines and the other necessary equipment to be able to assist other jurisdictions if requested.
Today, in conjunction with the efforts of Lake Jackson VFD, DFR now staffs a minimum of two boat crews with supporting shore personnel during flood and hurricane watches and warnings. These specially trained personnel are strategically located within the County to ensure a quick response time to the swift water incident. Personnel receive three levels of swift water training Operation, Technician, and Boat Operators, and Ice Rescue Technician. All Department Personnel receive Swift Water Awareness training while in recruit training.