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First responders receive swift water rescue certification

PRESTONSBURG, Ky. (WYMT) - First responders from as far away as Grant County are in Floyd County this weekend getting certified as swift water rescue technicians. The three day course is conducted by the Floyd County Rescue Team and began Friday evening in the classroom with hours of instruction. The final two days are spent in the water doing various skills training and testing.

Saturday is training day for participants in the course. Instructor Tom Hereford says, "These people go through a rigorous three day course, they are trained in everything from boat navigations to boat jumps to rescue someone off of trees."

They say it doesn't start out easy as instructors first put the 18 participants through an endurance and agility test in which they have to pull a victim through the water and then swim as hard as they can back to dry land. Hereford explains, "It is to see if they are capable of enduring swimming in swift water because the lake here is just calm water, when you get in a swift water situation you are looking at water moving 4 to 5 to even 20 some miles per hour."

The course is one that instructors say puts first responders through the toughest training they will ever receive, and that's why Billy Wilcox took the course last year and has now brought some other first responders from Powell County to receive training.

Wilcox says, "The more people you have that know what they are doing...the smoother everything flows and the less chance of someone getting injured doing something they can't do."

Officials say people come from throughout the state to take this course because it is the only course of its kind recognized by emergency management in the entire state. Wilcox says, "This is invaluable training, we can't get that where we are at."

It is training that instructors say is vital for first responders, as they hope to never encounter any of these situations but prepare to protect and rescue those in their communities in what they say is often a life or death situation.

Participants will go through more physical testing on Sunday morning and then take a written exam to complete their certification.

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