WENTWORTH — The Rockingham County Swiftwater Rescue team has received new equipment from the state, thanks to $2 million in search and rescue funds budgeted in last year’s budget.
The swiftwater squad, ranked as a type 3 team by North Carolina Emergency Management, received a Zodiak inflatable rescue boat and 30-horsepower, jet-driven motor earlier this month.
The team was also issued six dry suits and life vests.
“It will help us with getting people off the rivers or flood and swiftwater situations,” said team leader Jason Wood, noting that the equipment will also benefit NCEM when the local team deploys across North Carolina as a member of a 30-team network positioned across the state.
In total, about $1.4 million was spent on new water rescue equipment to 26 state-sponsored water rescue teams.
The funding, appropriated by the legislature, went towards 46 inflatable swift water rescue boats, 62 motors and additional support accessories such as fuel tanks, life jackets, dry suits and paddles.
“It’s important that North Carolina remain ready for future storms and this vital equipment will give emergency response professionals more of the tools they need to keep families safe,” said Governor Roy Cooper in a news release.
The intention of the new equipment is also to help enhance response capacity and replace aging gear.
“This is significant for our water rescue teams, because for many years we relied on limited grants to fund our search and rescue program,” said North Carolina Emergency Management Director Mike Sprayberry. “These new boats, motors and equipment will help make sure our water rescue teams are ready to respond anywhere floods happen.”
Wood told RockinghamNow that the equipment will serve a purpose, as the need for water rescue has increased locally over the last few years with the promotion of river usages and increased kayaking and tubing.
“We are having to get on the rivers more and assist people off that might have a medical emergency or misjudged their time or if a storm has come up,” Wood said. “We’ve also had to get people out of vehicles, off bridges and in other flood situations. Our team gets used quite a bit.”
The unit has responded to several areas of the state over the last few years, to assist during major floods and is cleared locally before assisting in other areas.