Lynchburg, VA - Emergency crews have responded to several incidents in our area in the past couple of weeks, including a drowning on Monday.
Wednesday, the Lynchburg Fire Department practiced some rescue drills out on the James River.
There's one thing that's vital when you're out on the river:
"Your life jacket--that's your first line of defense," said Master Firefighter Steve Ripley.
The swift water part of the department's technical rescue team takes that step very seriously.
They say it should be strapped on tightly so it won't rise above your head.
The swift water team practices in high water to make sure they're ready for any rescue scenario, but they hope if people listen to these tips, their help won't be needed.
Whether boating, kayaking, or tubing, make sure you have emergency equipment.
"You always want to have something you can reach to somebody or you can throw at somebody. That can be a stick from the bank, that can be your rope or that can be another life jacket if you have a spare one," said Ripley.
But you should never jump in after someone. Try to reach out to them with one of the tools Ripley mentioned.
If you fall into the water, it's important to stay calm.
"Lay back, put your hands across your chest, put your toes up. Relax," said Ripley.
The worst thing you can do is panic. And don't stand up -- you can get your feet stuck in something underneath and get pinned down.
The team advises people to carry floating throw bags, so if someone does need rescuing, you can throw them a rope. Ripley says to aim it toward the person's shoulder.
"Just throw above stream where he can get it. He's got it. ‘Sir let the rope go over your shoulder, and I'll pull you in,'" commanded Ripley to the firefighter acting as the victim.
The last piece of advice is to use your common sense. Even the best swimmer can get swept away by a strong current, so if there is debris in the river and it's been raining for days, they say just avoid the water.
Officials from the rescue team also say you can check the water levels before you get in the river. You can get all the area levels on this website.