Preparing for swift water rescues ahead of monsoon

2021 Swift water rescue statistics
Posted at 9:34 AM, May 23, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-23 12:34:41-04

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — When flooding starts during monsoon, fire departments want to avoid calls for swift water rescues.

"Last season was the busiest rescue season we had," BJ Noriega, a captain with the Tucson Fire Department said.

The Tucson Fire Department, Northwest District, and Golden Ranch Fire Department responded to 98 calls for swift water rescues from July 1 to August 16 of 2021. During those calls, the crews spent a total of 276 hours on scene.

This holds up resources for other emergencies.

"Swift water rescues will require what we call a full alarm dispatch," Captain Noriega said. "You are going to get multiple apparatus responding to one of these rescues and when these storms we can get up to five or more rescues at a time because these storms can be so powerful."

Captain Noriega adds that avoiding flooded roads will go a long way in keeping you and first responders safe.

"So, avoid those storms, stay in during those storms," Captain Noriega said. "Never ever cross a flooded roadway or especially one that is barricaded."

When the rescues do happen, the fire departments are ready to help. Prior to monsoon, they hold training sessions to review rescue operations.

They'll simulate ladder rescues and also rope bags to prepare.

"If we can stay out of the water its safer for us," Captain Noreiga said about swift water rescues. "Our first attempt to any type of rescue is to try and reach them with something whether it's going to be a ladder trucks or a rope bag."

Captain Noriega said their last resort is to get in the water because that puts them in danger as well.

If you are in an emergency situation, he said the best thing to do is start by calling 911. Then he said staying on the line with them helps pinpoint the rescue location. He also said you should remain in the car as long as you can until it is unsafe.

Greg Bradbury is a reporter for KGUN 9. Greg is a graduate of Syracuse University where he studied Broadcast Journalism and Spanish. Greg joined KGUN 9 in February 2021 as a Multimedia Journalist after working at the ABC National Desk as a Digital News Associate. Share your story ideas and important issues with Greg by emailing or by connecting on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.