SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) — Water levels in rivers across the state are rapidly rising, making our waterways incredibly dangerous. On Wednesday, the Unified Fire Authority conducted swift water training along the Provo River to demonstrate how they prepare for water rescue emergencies.
Experts stress that training like this is crucial for search and rescue teams, especially with the high runoff and flows we are currently experiencing. The Unified Fire Authority conducted various training exercises to allow their crew to experience the power of the river flows right now.
Jason Curry, Director of the Utah Division of Outdoor Recreation, warns that the odds of surviving any kind of plunge into this water are very low.
Although the dangers around waterways like the Provo River may seem obvious, such as drowning or exposure to the frigid water, Sheriff Jake Peterson of Salt Lake County explains that if you fall into a river like this, it is most likely blunt force trauma that will kill you.
Search and rescue teams focused on three main swift water rescue techniques at the demonstration: swimming out and grabbing victims and swimming them back in; using rope systems to lower down to a victim that may be stuck; and practicing walking across shallow rivers to get victims out.
The best thing Utah residents can do right now is maintain a safe distance from the rushing water, and if anyone sees someone fall in, call 911 immediately and do not go in the water alone.
Tyler Flygare, Water Rescue Coordinator for Unified Fire Authority, warns that 50% of all fatalities on waterways are would-be rescuers, and he asks people not to become one of those victims.
If by some chance you are the victim, Flygare advises people to get on their back, not stand up, and backpedal towards the shore. Another tip is to designate a “water watcher” if you are going to be near the rivers. This is someone who will keep an eye on pets and small children who are most vulnerable and unaware of the dangers.
In summary, waterways in the state are incredibly dangerous this time of year due to rapid runoff and raging rivers. It is imperative that search and rescue teams are trained to handle these types of emergencies, and the best thing we can do is to maintain a safe distance from the water and designate a “water watcher” to keep an eye on those who are most vulnerable.
If you see someone fall into the water, do not attempt to rescue them and call 911 instead.