Atlanta’s Swift Water Rescue team on standby as Ian inches closer to Georgia

Fire officials in Georgia say the next 72 hours are critical.
Published: Sep. 27, 2022 at 8:20 PM EDT
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ATLANTA, Ga. (Atlanta News First) - All eyes are on Hurricane Ian, but not just in Florida.

The Atlanta Fire Department’s Swift Water Rescue team is on standby, ready for deployment.

“A lot of times people think of swift water as being a river or creek. It also goes beyond that,” said Battalion Chief Jason Mclain, Atlanta Fire Rescue, Station 11. “It’s something that we always have to be concerned of and keep in the back of our mind is urban flooding.”

While parts of Florida are bracing for potential historic rain and storm surge, in Atlanta, fire officials say the next 72 hours are critical. Crews are closely watching Ian’s track and its strength. The biggest concern is urban flooding which history shows can be dangerous and destructive in Atlanta.

“What’s the potential rainfall going to be from the storm. Those are all the things we’re looking for,” said Mclain. “Now, there’s a lot of hazards involved with a tropical system. After it’s made landfall, we’re concerned about the rain, the torrential rain from a tropical system. That’s where the swift water rescue team comes into play.”

Atlanta’s Swift Water Rescue unit is 80 members strong. 12 of them, including the team’s first woman, just wrapped up two weeks of intense, hands-on training.

“Practice some swims and then learn different techniques of how to rescue someone in the boat. How to set up ropes to use ropes as the rescue technique, said Kayla Bell, an Atlanta firefighter.

That training is necessary. Mclain says they can respond to dozens of water rescue calls in just one month, especially in the summer.

Mclain is also reminding motorists to never drive through standing water. You can’t tell how deep it is. He says turn around, don’t drown.