West Virginia Swift Water Rescue Team attains FEMA Level 2 status

CHARLESTON, WV (NEWS RELEASE) – Members of the newly-formed West Virginia Swift Water Rescue Team, comprised of West Virginia National Guard members and Clendenin and Glasgow Volunteer firefighters, recently attained the necessary training and certification to identify as a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Type 2 swift water/flood search and rescue team.

The final training component, which took place Oct. 13 at the West Virginia National Guard Center for National Response, covered large animal rescue and response and gave the team the last certification needed within the National Incident Management System (NIMS), the comprehensive, national approach to disaster response, to reach this milestone.

Based on insight and lessons learned following the June 2016 flooding, the creation of the WVSWRT came about through a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed Aug. 1, 2017. The MOU, signed between the WVNG, CVFD and GVFD, outlined a path forward through the training and standardization of swift water rescue teams to provide search and rescue services to the citizens of West Virginia.

The roughly 50-member team is comprised equally of West Virginia National Guard members and firefighters with experiences in search and rescue and swift water rescue.

“We have a core team of individuals who train together, work together, know what each other’s capabilities are, and who can forward deploy as a self-supporting unit so we don’t go back and relive what we saw last June,” said Maj. Walter Hatfield, Joint Interagency Training and Education Center (JITEC) Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosive (CBRNE) battalion commander.

Hatfield, along with Clendenin and Glasgow fire chiefs Kevin Clendenin and Marvin Blankenship, were driving forces behind the creation of the WVSWRT.

“This is just another example of the West Virginia National Guard’s innovation and great working relationships with our first responder partners in the communities throughout the state,” said Maj. Gen. James Hoyer, The Adjutant General of the WVNG. “The capabilities of this group far exceeds anything we’ve had in the past. By meeting the national standard, we can ensure that when we are called to respond to our citizens needing assistance – whether here or anywhere in the United States – that we have the capability to support our first responder partners, such as Glasgow and Clendenin Fire Departments, who are some of the best in the country.”

For a team to be considered a FEMA Type 2, capabilities must include the ability to search for and rescue individuals who may be injured or in need of medical attention; provide emergency medical care including Basic Life Support (BLS); provide shore-based and boat-based water rescue; provide animal rescue; transport humans and animals to the nearest location for secondary air or land transport; support helicopter rescue operations and urban search and rescue in water environments; and operate in environments with or without infrastructure, including those with compromised access to roadways, utilities, transportation, and medical facilities.

“Becoming a Type 2 Swift Water Team shows both the training dedication and expertise that the West Virginia Army National Guard has pursued,” stated FEMA Region III Regional Administrator MaryAnn Tierney. “This capability is a tremendous asset to the people of West Virginia, and potentially the country, and provides a critical asset if potential water rescues are needed.”

Going forward, the WVSWRT will continue to enhance their skills by working together and providing training to one another in order to maintain proficiency and better serve the citizens of West Virginia.

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