CONWAY, SC (WMBF) - Members of the South Carolina Helicopter Aquatic Rescue Team will be at Coastal Carolina University Friday for rescue swim training. The HART team has been in place for about a year and a half and is funded through federal monies.
"We're currently only one of two states in the nation that currently have this program in place," Daniel McManus, Assistant State Fire Marshal, said. "Others are coming online, [but] it's years in the making."
McManus says the HART team, which could be used for rescues during floods, boating accidents, or other emergencies, is a collaboration of the National Guard and local firefighters and EMS workers.
"These guys have hundreds of hours of rescue," McManus explained. "National Guard pilots and crew chiefs train nonstop all of the time in search, but have no rescue policy. We're just matching them up."
While the Coast Guard is trained to perform similar rescues, he says this group can be called in when the Coast Guard is unavailable or when more resources are needed like during a natural disaster. McManus says the key is getting the program together and the team members trained before they are ever needed.
Two of the group's rescue swimmers are from Myrtle Beach and Fire Chief Alvin Payne says he never thought twice about supporting their involvement.
"Grants pay for training and it's great to have your people trained," Payne said. "The more capabilities they have, the more things that we can do."
McManus says there is also another perk to the rescuers being local.
"When they're up in there [in the helicopter] they'll understand where they're at, where the water ways are ... the streets, avenues, and so on," McManus said. "So you're not getting some guy from Hilton Head searching Myrtle Beach, you're getting Myrtle Beach firefighters who do it everyday."
The quarterly training will last through Sunday and involve various military aircraft and rescue personnel.