GEORGETOWN COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - Midway Fire Rescue Chief Doug Eggiman says about 30 swimmers are rescued annually only from Midway beaches. As the Grand Strand keeps topping tourism charts, the number of people going into the water can only go up. That's why fire departments train in water rescue year-round, to keep you and our visitors safe. This year, the fire department brought in out-of-state help to train in new techniques.
Water rescue training goes on year-round at the Midway Fire Rescue because between the ocean, Waccamaw River and all the pools, we're surrounded by water all the time. The chief says the water rescue squad has been around for almost 30 years, but it's never too late to learn a few new tricks.
"For Midway Fire Rescue we're always training constantly and we're looking to move forward to help the community," Special Operations Chief Jim Payne said. He's in charge of water rescue training for Midway. He says most people needing rescue are tourists because they're not as familiar with ocean swimming. This year, Midway Fire Rescue brought in help from a Maryland water rescue unit to share techniques and improvements.
Last year was the first time the Midway Fire Department brought in water rescuers from Ocean City, Maryland to help firemen here learn the newest techniques and better themselves to help you if you need it. It cost the department $500 for the extra help, but firemen say it's worth it.
Midway water rescuer Joey Anderson has been with the department for four years, and said he can see the changes since Maryland-native Special Operations Chief Jim Payne brought in the Ocean City crew. "The past two years have really turned around our water rescue training and helped us to make our water rescue team better," Anderson said.
Midway Fire Rescue has had a water rescue squad for almost 30 years, so they have their own strategies for rescue. But Midway Fire Rescue Chief Doug Eggiman said bringing out-of-state departments gives a new perspective to Midway's training and only makes them better.
All of Midway Fire Rescue is trained in water rescue, but the best swimmers are usually the ones sent for the job, Anderson said.
Maryland rescuers taught Midway's crew improved swimming-to-victim techniques this year. This includes ways to protect the spine and new board rescue methods. Chief Payne said this year when fire crews arrive, a swimming rescuer will go immediately to the victim for faster response, instead of waiting for a jet ski. Then, whoever reaches him or her first will save them.
"If they bring one new skill to help the fire department, help the community…then that's very valuable," Chief Payne said when talking about the help from Ocean City.
Rescuers respond to an average of 125 water rescue calls a year, ranging from rip currents to medical emergencies, and believe it or not, most are lost children who are usually found.
The water rescue squad said the most beneficial things you can do as a bystander is to call 911 and not swim far out to help. Chief Eggiman said he's rescued as many as 8 people at once for trying to save one person, but they all ended up needing rescuing. If you're in trouble, wave your arms and stay calm when help comes.
For an inside look at what a water rescue would be like for you, watch the videos above.