HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) – Emergency agencies across Horry and Georgetown counties are investing in new equipment and training to make water rescues quicker and easier this summer.
During the busy summer season there isn't just more traffic on our roads, but also our waterways. Because the Grand Strand is surrounded by water, with the Intracoastal Waterway and the ocean, emergency crews have to find the best way to get to those in need of rescue quicker. Sometimes, the water is the best way to do that
There are different obstacles our emergency crews face being near the water, including rescues, missing swimmers, or homes only accessible by boat. Recently, a new operation was put together, called the Water Rescue Work Group. It is made up of different fire departments, rescue squads and public safety departments across Horry and Georgetown counties.
Some agencies are getting brand new equipment to get the job done.
"In the river, this is our primary response vehicle," said Midway Fire Rescue Battalion Chief Carr Gilmore, aboard the department's primary rescue boat. "Anytime we launch one vehicle, we launch two."
Operations on the water are similar to on land: two vehicles respond to assist the job done.
"They'd be launching an inflatable boat or a jet ski with operator and emergency swimmer to back us up," Chief Gilmore said.
Now, Midway Fire Rescue has a brand new tool to use. A customized water pump on their rescue boat pulls water straight from the Intracoastal Waterway, and can spray up to 600 gallons of water a minute - almost six times faster than a regular fire hose.
This makes the boat an overall emergency machine - being able to get to isolated areas quicker, put out any type of fire right from the water, and transport any patients.
"This makes sure the victim gets the assistance," Chief Gilmore added. "In the summertime, as you figure out very quickly, the water may be a quicker way to get there."
The department also has a new jet ski for quick water rescues, and a vehicle designed to get over the sand easily.
The Surfside Beach Fire Department is in the works for a similar operation, getting ready to train on a new jet ski and boat.
"No matter who comes to help us or we go to help, we are all speaking the same language," Chief Gilmore said.
The rivers, inlets, and waterway are similar to a highway system. Soon training books will be published for each agency in the Water Rescue Work Group so emergency crews from across the two counties can know exactly where to go during an emergency call.