Swift Water Rescue

Naperville has more than 500 bodies of water plus the river that cuts through town making a great area for recreational activities, but also the potential for a dangerous situation. So the fire department put together a water rescue team to be prepared.

“We currently have 30 members on our team of the dive water rescue team. And of those 30, 20 of them are swift water rescue technicians,” said Chuck Gros, the water rescue team coordinator for the Naperville Fire Department.

Water Rescue 3 International has technicians in 32 countries teaching classes year round for EMTs, paramedics, wilderness responders and firefighters.

The Swift Water Rescue Course at the Fox River lasts three days. The first day is spent in the classroom where the students learn anything from what a specific whistle blow means to captaining the rescue boat. But the last two days they put their knowledge to the test and really have a chance to get their feet wet.

“Hardest part about today, for me, was as you try and retain it just trying to stay up on the skills. I mean you’re only doing it once and then you’re trying to put it in your mind and hang onto it until you get to practice it again,” said firefighter Keith Jurek, who was attending the training course. “So knowing that I can take it in today and hopefully be able to use it. Then next time I come back to it making sure I can still do it again.”

These hands-on courses give firefighters the knowledge to quickly create a plan of action for any stressful situation thrown at them.

“You can talk about it on land. You can walk it through on flat grass but when you get into the water on the uneven rocks with waves and the current, it doesn’t work out like you thought it would in the grass. So you have to adapt and overcome that,” said trainee Audrey Enlow of the Bristol-Kendall Fire Department.

Trainees soaked in as much as possible the last day by repeating each exercise multiple times and agreed that practice makes perfect for this type of class.

“We’re giving knowledge to these guys that are out there that are going to help somebody. So the satisfaction is pretty huge because when they get out of the water today the light bulb is on and they have smiles on their face and they’re like, ‘I can do this,’” said Gros.


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