Big Water release allows for swift-water training

All the water pouring out of Tom Miller Dam on Monday provided more than an awesome and frightening sight. It provided an opportunity.

"This is real, you've got very swift moving water, its treacherous behind us as you can see, and so it does provide the ideal training environment right here in our back yard,” said Austin Travis County EMS Commander Michael Benavides.

Some of those who hit the water were with Austin Travis County EMS. A few were working for their certification. Those already certified also took part. They worked maneuvering boats on the fast current, called J-turns.

EMS Capt. Eric Gordon said they also practiced how to survive while caught up in a fast current.

"We teach them how to read the water, how to swim in the water, how to move in the water, if there is someone to be rescued on either side of the bank, different techniques that you use to get to someone in moving water like this, also if you find yourself in the water, how to survive being in that water."

Capt. Gordon, one of the trainers, has worked swift water rescues for more than a decade. Experience - Gordon pointed out- doesn't eliminate the risk.

" Cause this is one of the most dangerous rescue operations that you do in moving water."

Some of those taking part in the exercise were in the real thing just last week, there were deployments just east of Austin and to Houston. Three individuals were sent from EMS, another three came from the Austin Fire Department.

Captain Gordon said he took part in several rescues around the town of Wharton.

"How many folks did you pull out? We pulled out over the 5 days let me count here, 10, 11, 12,13, 14, 15, 16, 20 ... around 30 plus dogs and cats and a parrot."

During the exercise, on the other side of the dam, EMS responders were called to a real rescue.

A man riding a personal watercraft crashed on Lake Austin hurting his back. An EMS crew not taking part in the water rescue exercise- answered that call for help.

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