A national awards committee presented Maryland’s Swiftwater Rescue Program with a national honor to “recognize excellence in the dangerous technical rescue discipline of swiftwater and flood rescue.” The Higgins & Langley Memorial and Education Awards Committee presented the award in May, 2010, at the annual National Association for Search and Rescue (NASAR) conference at Harrah’s Casino Resort in Mississippi.
At a later press conference at the Glenn L. Martin Airport in Middle River, Baltimore County Executive Jim Smith, Brigadier General James A. Adkins (MDARNG), Police Chief Jim Johnson, and Assistant Fire Chief Mark Weir recognized the Maryland Helicopter Aquatic Rescue Team (MDHART) for its and Swiftwater Rescue and the national Higgins & Langley Award.
MDHART formed Swiftwater Rescue as a partnership of public service agencies to provide swiftwater and flood rescues throughout the state of Maryland. They’ve set up an operating model that includes hoist & rescue operations using helicopters. MDHART training included pilot extrication drills, equipment loading, victim capture devices, dunker training, and swim requirements, airborne hoist drills with empty field insertions/extractions, aircraft to roof drills, aircraft to trees, aircraft to drill tower and aircraft to car exercises. After other tests and training over two years, the unit became operational for service.
Swiftwater was honored with a national award by the Higgins and Langley Awards Committee for being an “exemplary, model program” that coordinates military, fire & rescue and law enforcement. The Higgins and Langley Awards Committee seeks to recognize programs that are “state of the art,” as well as ones that can serve as models for other public service departments.
Nationally, water rescue (whitewater rescue) services include a specialized team that deals with the unique issue of swift, moving water in a rescue situation. Rescuers protect those endangered by high-powered, moving water situations. They make use of the power of the water to rescue the endangered party.
Swiftwater Rescue involves three zones that describe the immediate area surrounding the problem: Cold, Warm or Hot. They relate to the distance involved. A Hot Zone refers to anything in the water, while a Warm Zone involves anything that is from the shore to 10 feet from the shore. Cold relates to areas beyond the 10 feet mark. The threat to the endangered party increases by the nature of the zones/distance of the rescue.