FOX 4 gets up close and personal look at water rescue training with KCFD

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Firefighters train year around, and with recent rains and an increased chance of flash flooding, Kansas City firefighters are tackling moving water rescues. Firefighters said the Missouri River moved about four miles an hour Thursday. The wind moved the water and currents quickly. Firefighters take those things, and several others, into account when making water rescues.

Thursday FOX 4 got a special look at what kind of effort those rescues take.

Speed, intensity, and a fast-moving current are just some of the dangers Kansas City firefighters face when pulling people out of moving water. Thursday’s event was not an actual rescue, and the “victim” was actually FOX 4's Megan Dillard.

She suited up with Battalion Chief Todd Ackerson and made her way to the banks of the Missouri River, where one the department’s speed boats took the pair out to the middle of the river.

“We do a lot of out-of-the-boat rescues. It’s not just driving up to the victim and picking them up with the boat.” Instead, it’s a team which includes a driver, a rescue swimmer who jumps in for the victim, and a person who uses a rope to pull the pair to safety." Ackerson said.

The training group made its way underneath a rare view of the Bond Bridge to a pile of dangerous debris to demonstrate how much stronger the current gets around logs and other debris.  That type of power, for a victim without instruction, without a life vest, and without protection presents a much tougher fight.

“When water’s moving, the dynamics of the water make it a lot more dangerous,” said Ackerson.

He said firefighters respond to a dozen calls one the river a year and Thursday’s hands-on training  is meant to prepare first responders for those moments when safety is measured in seconds.

“Time is very important to us. If we know somebody is in trouble out here, that’s everything,” he said.

Fire says the most important thing to do is wear a life vest. They also say if you find yourself in the water, make your way back to the boat or to the closest shore. Also, don’t fight the current and try your best not to panic.

KCFD runs these drills out on the river many times throughout the year and for swift water training, when water moves at about ten miles per hour, firefighters train at Worlds of Fun.

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