SIDNEY — As warmer spring weather approaches, so do the spring rains.
“In Shelby County, we have numerous areas that are prone to flooding when the area receives excessive rain. This flooding can sweep a vehicle off the roadway and trap the occupants in the flooded area,” Sidney Fire Chief Chad Hollinger said.
While responding crews are able to successfully rescue the victims most of the time, the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) provided data from 2004 to 2007 that shows on average there were 384 traffic fatalities related to accidental drowning. These incidents prompted a national awareness campaign and the slogan, “Go around, don’t drown!”
According to Hollinger, there are many times that motorists misjudge the depth and strength of flood waters and attempt to pass through, which can lead to tragic outcomes. The National Weather Service reports that as little as one foot of water can sweep most cars off the roadway.
“The best option is to not attempt to pass through a flooded roadway. Sport Utility Vehicles (SUV’s) and trucks are not safer because of their size. Their larger tires provide additional buoyancy and are also prone to being swept away,” Hollinger said.
In recent years, more people have begun to utilize local waterways for recreational purposes, according to Hollinger. Kayaking, canoeing, and fishing have brought more people outdoors to enjoy the local natural resources.
“When done safely, this time can provide excellent exercise and enjoyment. However, these activities can also expose recreationalist to danger if safety is not considered,” Hollinger said.
During times of flooding and high water, the public is encouraged to stay away from these activities. While the internet provides countless videos of expert kayakers navigating extremely dangerous situations, Hollinger said that most people do not possess these levels of skill and equipment.
“In almost every case of a near-drowning, the survivor says something similar to, ‘I had no idea the water was that strong!’,” Hollinger said. “Water is an extremely powerful force.”
During the Sidney Department of Fire and Emergency Services’ swiftwater rescue training, they stress repeatedly that no one can ever beat the river. As little as six inches of rapidly moving water can sweep a person off their feet. A current of 9 mph will exert approximately 302 pounds of force on a person’s body. A properly fitted life jacket is the single most important piece of safety equipment to have when participating in activities on or in the water.
Locally, the Sidney Department of Fire and Emergency Services responded to four swiftwater rescues in 2020, five in 2019, and two each in 2018 and 2017. The Sidney Department of Fire and Emergency Services has two power boats that are equipped for swift water, surface rescues. Numerous department members are trained and certified in Swiftwater Rescue. Every year, department members participate in water competency, boat operations, and advanced rescue techniques. In the coming weeks, members will be practicing these techniques when conditions are suitable on the Great Miami River.
“Although we are trained and prepared, we ask that the public enjoy our natural resources safely and responsibly; never needing our assistance,” Hollinger said.
The Sidney Daily News conducts a periodic interview to update readers with news from the Sidney Fire and Emergency Services Department, 222 W. Poplar St., Sidney.