Butch's Brew: MCSO Search and Rescue helps train swift water rescue techniques

Students acting as safety personnel toss "bags" attached to ropes to the other students during the "throw bag" practice session of their training. This maneuver is used to toss a safety line to swimmers who may be in trouble and are in need of being saved from the river.

Students acting as safety personnel toss "bags" attached to ropes to the other students during the "throw bag" practice session of their training. This maneuver is used to toss a safety line to swimmers who may be in trouble and are in need of being saved from the river.

MOHAVE COUNTY - Thunderstorms hammered Mohave County recently, causing people who attempted to drive their vehicles through flooded areas on the roadways to end up stranded and/or their vehicles were pushed into the rain-swollen washes.

These unfortunate people called 911 and waited for help to arrive. However, because qualified rescue personnel were stretched to the max, many of the drivers and passengers had to wait extended periods of time for swift water rescue teams to help bring them to safety. Luckily, no people perished during the recent flooding waiting for help.

Knowing there was a lack of qualified personnel to assist with rescues, Mohave County Sheriff's Office Search and Rescue and Northern Arizona Consolidated Fire District (NACFD) joined forces to conduct swift water rescue training last month.

The intense 2-1/2 day training was attended by three MSCO deputies, eight volunteers from the Mohave County Sheriff's Office Search and Rescue, one officer from the Bullhead City Police Department and 13 firefighters from Bullhead City, Golden Valley, NACFD and Lake Mohave Ranchos.

Training was conducted in the Kingman area the first two days, and on the third students headed to the Big Bend State Park, situated on the shores of the Colorado River below Laughlin, Nev., to practice the skills they had learned.

According to head instructor Eric Brooks, the owner of ProTech Scuba, LLC from Sierra Vista, and his brother Shawn Brooks, a corporal with the Bullhead City Police Department, there are three levels of swift water rescue training and qualifications. Their goal of the training was to make each of the students operational in three areas: knowledge level (awareness) with classroom instruction and then a "dry run" in a local Kingman wash on Saturday; and two phases of actual "water" training conducted in the Colorado River Sunday. The experience level (operational) was practicing "self rescues" and then the other experience level (technician) was to practice team skills, including how to save team members and others.

Early training included knot tying, equipment discussion, system discussion, swift water system practice in a Kingman dry wash, proper anchors, mechanical advantage, tension diagonals, ferry boat, boat on a system, spotters and safeties, and throw bag practice.

The last day of training was much more exciting for the students because they were able to practice their skills in the Colorado River. It included self rescue skills, aggressive swimming, defensive swimming, barrel roll/eddies, swimming skills evaluation by the instructor, strong swimmer skills and ferry angles, strainer practice, throw bag practice, water crossings, line wade, wedge wade, circle wade and foot entrapment, tethered swimmer, and boat-based rescues.

"We are always happy to participate and/or host classes that will improve our ability to safely and effectively accomplish our mission, specifically swift water rescue calls throughout the greater Kingman area and other locations within Mohave County," said NACFD Fire Chief Pat Moore. "This class is a result of a joint partnership and the first in a series to improve upon our technical rescue skills."

If the time ever arises again in Mohave County for swift water rescues, there will be 25 more individuals qualified to perform the task of saving lives.

For further information about MCSO Search and Rescue, visit http://www.mohavesearch.com.

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