River swimming safety

River swimming safety
Source: WDAM

FORREST COUNTY (WDAM) - When the summer time heats up, people head to their favorite swimming holes in and around the Pine Belt.

In 2016, the Forrest County Dive team responded to over a dozen incidents, including multiple drownings and river rescues.

"The main reason is you've got currents that you can't see, you don't know where they're at," Forrest County EMA Director Glen Moore said. "Whenever you go to the beach or swimming in a pool, you pretty much can see the bottom and you know what's in the water."

Moore said the river is much different from any other type of swimming location.

"In the river, you've got snags, you've got logs in the water, you've got these undertow currents and a lot of people don't take that in to consideration whenever they get into the water," Moore said.

Another thing the dive team and emergency officials respond to are incidents where people get stranded or trapped on the river.

"We've had several search and rescue missions where people got lost on the river, got stranded on the river, we actually had to go rescue them," Moore said.

A common occurrence when people use pool floats to try to float the river.

"So many times last year people were going and getting these pool floats, trying to do that float, and you just can't, you can't expect a pool float to hold up for that long of a trip, there are so many underwater snags," Moore said. "That's what happens so many times, people's flotation devices, those little pool floats, they busted, they caught a snag and then all the sudden there you are, four hours from reaching your destination and you don't have any way to travel."

Forrest County Dive team member Jim Hennessey said always let someone know where you're going when you head to the river.

"Always have a plan of where you're going to be, how long you're going to be, tell somebody so that they know when to expect you back," Hennessey said. "Don't ever go by yourself, it's safer in numbers. Everybody thinks that of nothing will happen to me, but that one time something will happen to you and nobody knows that you're there."

Another thing that can save a life is a safety flotation device or a life jacket.

"Even if you do know how to swim," Hennessy said. "If you're working or playing around the water, if you're fishing in a boat, a lot of us say, oh I don't need that…if something happens to you when you fall over board…even though you know how to swim and you become incapacitated that personal flotation device will save your life."

"The main thing is, is common sense, if you don't know how to swim, either don't go in the water, or if you do go in the water, have a flotation device on," Moore said.

More times than not, when the dive team is called, it turns into a recovery rather than a search and rescue.

"By the time we get involved with it, it's not a rescue, it's more of a recovery unfortunately," Hennessey said.

If that happened, there are things other people than the actual victim can do to help.

"The biggest that thing that we clue in is to get a good history, is to where the last place that the person was seen, what were they by, or a specific area," Hennessey said. "Whatever information that we can get on the front end will help us on the back end."

Another thing Moore said to be aware of is when it gets dark in the evening and the constant changing weather in the summer time.