EMERGENCY services in Queensland will soon be able to rescue people from dangerous floodwaters much faster thanks to an Australian-first training regime.
Minister for Fire and Emergency Services Mark Ryan said senior swift water rescue instructors were undergoing internationally-recognised training in the use of inflatable motorised flood boats in the state’s north.
Trainers from the United States are putting 11 instructors through an intensive six-day course.
Mr Ryan said specialist swift water rescue firefighters currently used paddled or rope-tethered inflatable boats to reach people in dangerous fast-moving water and that the inclusion of motorised craft would bolster rescue efforts.
“This training is a first of its kind not only in Queensland but in Australia,” Mr Ryan said.
“It will give QFES the ability to use motorised craft to perform swift water rescues, allowing firefighters to be much more agile, reach people faster and get to areas previously inaccessible using paddle power.
More than 160 swift water rescues were carried out during the recent floods that followed Cyclone Debbie.
Mr Ryan said the new capability would be crucial to ensuring emergency responders were well equipped with the best training and resources.
“The Palaszczuk Government said we would invest in not only more frontline officers but also in the resources needed to keep Queenslanders safe and this new world-leading training is just one example of where we are delivering on this commitment,” Mr Ryan said.
“This nation-leading approach will complement the organisation’s existing State Emergency Service (SES) flood boat rescue capability and it demonstrates the progressive and innovative commitment the organisation has to protect the community.
“The Queensland Government is investing almost $500,000 in these life-saving craft, so it means from the NSW border to the tip of Cape York and out west, swift water rescue teams will have greater capacity to respond when called upon.”
Minister Ryan said the training coincided with the state’s plan to introduce 17 motorised swift water rescue craft statewide over the next year.
QFES Acting Commissioner Mark Roche said the introduction of motorised craft would enhance the ability of firefighters to assist the community during severe weather and flood events.
“Queensland’s firefighters have performed more than 200 swift water rescues throughout the state in the past two years, often under dangerous conditions,” he said.
“These new craft reduce the need for rescuers to paddle long distances to reach people and help in situations where fast-flowing flood water hampers rescue operations.
“Rescuers will be able to motor upstream and downstream in rapidly moving waters, something they could not do with paddles alone.”
“The motorised craft will also provide another means of rescue where helicopters had previously been the last option.”
Mr Roche said the craft were fitted with outboard motors and could be inflated in two minutes, allowing rescuers to act fast when the need arose.
He said the instructors undergoing training this week would, once certified, commence training other swift water rescuers across the state to provide the increased capability to all regions.
“I can’t overstate the importance to Queensland of the training going on at the moment to introduce motorised swift water rescue craft and trained operators to the ranks of QFES,” Mr Roche said.
“Time is of the essence when it comes to swift water rescues, and I am confident this new equipment and training will give our firefighters the skills and tools they require to continue helping those in need.”