City receives swiftwater rescue gear


Staff Writer

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

The Rocky Mount Fire Department is among two dozen swiftwater rescue teams to receive new equipment from the state.

The fire department received $65,000 in swiftwater rescue equipment, which included two 14-foot inflatable rescue boats and three 30-horsepower rescue motors, said Capt. Jamey Cooke of the department’s operations division.

“It will enable our swiftwater rescue team to handle double the call volume during large-scale swiftwater emergencies,” Cooke said. “Prior to receiving this equipment, we were able to deploy only two motorized rescue boats. Our city historically is divided by the river during large-scale flood events and having the capability of placing two motorized rescue boats on each side of the divide will assist crews in providing a more efficient and effective service to our citizens.”

The funding is part of a grant received by state emergency management officials. The fire department received the benefits of the grant because the city’s team meets the requirements set by the state to be recognized as a type 1 state resource, said Tameka Kenan-Norman, the city’s chief communications officer.

Thanks to more than $2 million in search and rescue funding included in the state budget last year, Rocky Mount was among several swiftwater rescue units across the state to recently receive new equipment to enhance response capacity or replace old, aging equipment.

Gov. Roy Cooper, a Nash County native, said rescue workers need to have the best equipment possible.

“It’s important that North Carolina remain ready for future storms and this vital equipment will give emergency response professionals more of the tools they need to keep families safe,” Cooper said in a news release.

The equipment funding is significant for the water rescue teams because for many years the state relied on limited grants to fund search and rescue programs, state Emergency Management Director Mike Sprayberry said.

“These new boats, motors and equipment will help make sure our water rescue teams are ready to respond anywhere floods happen,” Sprayberry said.

About $1.4 million was spent on new water rescue equipment, including 46 inflatable swiftwater rescue boats, 62 motors and accessories to support the teams, including fuel tanks, life jackets, dry suits, paddles and other gear to maintain the boats and motors.

Swiftwater rescue units were created in the aftermath of the massive destruction of Hurricane Floyd in 1999 when state emergency management officials worked with local communities to develop a new way to prepare for disasters. The goal was to provide consistent training and equipment so that rescue teams could aid neighboring jurisdictions during a crisis regardless of the conditions or terrain.

The result was an arsenal of consistently trained, organized search and rescue teams that could be deployed at a moment’s notice, according to information provided by the state Public Safety Department.

During Hurricane Matthew, swiftwater rescue teams saved more than 1,800 residents from flooded vehicles and homes.

Teams are strategically positioned across the state and ready to deploy when needed. Technicians are trained and properly equipped and teams can be pre-deployed as needed.