Swift water rescue training aims to ensure safety on Poudre and area rivers
June 3, 2017
Safety on the Cache la Poudre River
A recent post from the Poudre Fire Authority urges caution on the river. According to the PFR, recent snow, rainfall and spring runoff increases hazards in the river. High-flow volumes, cold water and debris make the river conditions dangerous, according the post. . The PFR recommends visitors to the river follow the following safety tips:
» Tell someone detailed travel plans and always go with a partner.
» Have a communication plan in the event of an emergency, in case an area has no cell service.
» Wear life jackets around water. Some areas near the water’s edge and some riverbanks are unstable due to current high-flow rates.
» Stay away from riverbanks during times of high-flowing water. The banks may become unstable and give way.
» Never forget the power of the river, especially when it is running high and fast from spring runoff or recent heavy rains.
» Be aware of limitations in the water, as fast moving water and under currents can become dangerous.
» Monintor the weather, and be prepared in case more rain is predicted. Heavy rains upstream can alter the water flow and depth in a short period of time and also contribute to hypothermia. Hypothermia is a danger even in the summer.
» Carry a First Aid kit and know how to use it. Take a first aid course for CPR and basic medical assistance.
» If caught in a fast flowing river, rapids or storm water, try to float feet first in a half sit position.
» Remember: Reach or Throw, Don’t Go. If someone is caught in fast moving water, reach out to them or throw a rope to the person in the water, don’t go into the water to avoid needing rescue. Call 911 with a detailed information about where the incident is located.
Firefighters from three different departments searched the Poudre River on Thursday afternoon near Windsor for pink and blue "floaties," the signs of what they were told were two missing children.
They splashed against the swift current and grabbed brush beside the river to stop themselves from being pulled downstream.
"I found a piece of clothing," the firefighters called, marking the clothing as they placed it along the banks of the river.
Although the search for two children was just a training scenario organized by Lt. Kirk Bauer of Windsor Severance Fire Rescue, firefighters could encounter a rescue situation this spring as rivers swell with mountain runoff and residents take advantage of it.
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Clothing is a road map, a way for firefighters to locate victims of the river. Once they find clothing, rescuers are trained to search upriver from the evidence. Swimming toward the opposite shore from the majority of his colleagues, firefighter Bryan Vogt searched the weeds along the river. After about a minute of searching, he called out that he had found the final "patient," as they called them, ending the training scenario once he reached the shore where his colleagues stood.
The Poudre River was moving at around 1,300-1,500 cubic feet per second Thursday afternoon. That's enough, Bauer said, to tear a person's clothes from their body if they got stuck on a rock or other object.
That's also enough to sweep rescuers off their feet, obviously, and so in the second training scenario Thursday, trainees practiced using rescuers on both banks with ropes tied off in between them. The ropes were then attached to a boat, with other firefighters on the bank guiding the boat toward the patient.
Downstream "safeties," other rescuers standing on the shore downstream of the rescue, stay ready to jump in the water and help should a rescuer or patient fall back into the water. Bauer said one priority is to ensure the rescuers do not need to be rescued.
"That's why we train on self-rescue," he said.
Once all the trainees — including employees and volunteers from Windsor, Berthoud and Loveland — completed Thursday's course, Bauer said more than 90 percent of the career firefighters, volunteers and part-time firefighters with Windsor Severance Fire Rescue will be certified for swift-water rescue.