Local first responders explain Houston water rescues

JOHNSTON - The first responders in Houston are working diligently to rescue as many flood victims as they can. Local 5 spent time at a local fire department learning about how challenging water evacuations can be.

Water teams say deciding which watercraft to use in a flooding situation is often one of the hardest parts.

"When we evaluate the decision, we are looking at the water conditions," said Lt. Tristan Johnson of the Johnston-Grimes Fire Dept. "Particularly for us we operate with PWC's, so we have a certain depth of water for that to safely operate in. With our water rescue team we operate with an inflatable boat and this allows us to sit up higher in the water."

You have seen thousands of videos of people being rescued in Houston on kayaks, small boats, and just about anything inflatable to keep a person out of the water.

What you may not know is the extensive training first responders go through on top of their daily routines for water evacuations.

"It's not as easy as just taking a boat out in the water and pulling someone in," said Lt. Johnson. "There is a lot more technical training that goes into that process."

The fire department recently held a training to work on their specialty mission skills and practice for disasters.

"Our department recently expanded out water rescue team, we just purchased this boat that allows us to get into swift moving water," said Lt. Johnson. "So think of a flooded situation like they are in in Houston."

Another factor water rescue missions face is the unknown. In flooded water, it is nearly impossible to see what's beneath you.

"A lot of times a lot of hazardous materials are released into the waters," said Chief Jim Clark of the Johnston-Grimes Fire Dept. "Tanks of fuel, gasoline or other household hazardous material all become part of this flood and end up making the water toxic."

Apart from the routine rescue dangers first responders are facing in Houston, the department says whats even harder about the relief efforts is keeping teams healthy enough to weather the storm for several days.

"We are not machines, we are not invincible," said Chief Clark. "We need to have our rest and get our water and our food and take care of ourselves or else we are going to get to a point where we are too exhausted to save the others that need us."


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