Each summer, New Hanover Regional EMS packs up and heads to the beach - not to enjoy a little fun in the sun, but to get closer to the hundreds of people who may need help.
The NHREMS Water Rescue Team patrols Pleasure Island throughout the busy summer season. The team members’ presence on the island helps quicken the response times to remote areas and augment existing lifeguard services. Stationed at the Kure Beach Fire Station, they have a four-wheel drive truck that can go on the beach and transport someone back to a waiting ambulance if needed.
While the team stays busy with everything from medical emergencies to marine stings and sunburn, Christopher Gilmore, NHREMS Battalion Chief, says the biggest part of the team’s job is to help people escape rip currents.
“Rip currents are nothing to play with,” Gilmore said. “Even strong swimmers can have problems.”
Rescue crews frequently find more than one person struggling in a current. “Someone will go out to assist and they can’t get back either,” Gilmore said.
The Water Rescue Team promotes “self rescue.” A rescuer can often help someone simply by calling out instructions.
“We tell them to stay calm, let the current take you until it weakens, then swim parallel to the shore, and come back in,” Gilmore said. If that fails, paramedics are trained in how to go in and bring the swimmer back safely. Each member of the team has special training in coastal water rescue.
Memorial Day weekend marked the start of the rescue team’s term at the beach. The team will be there through Labor Day.
For more information on NHREMS’s Water Rescue Team, visit www.nhrmc.org/waterrescue.
A rip current is a narrow, powerful current of water running perpendicular to the beach, out into the ocean. These currents are responsible for more than 150 deaths in the United States each year. To avoid becoming a victim of a rip current, it’s important to know how to avoid them and how to get out of one.Rip Current Safey Tips Adapted from National Weather Service guidelines
Never swim alone.
Stay away from piers and jetties. Permanent rip currents often exist along these structures.
Consider using polarized sunglasses to help you spot signs of a rip current
Never fight against a rip current.
Swim out of the current in a direction following the shoreline. When out of the current, swim at an angle away from the current and towards shore.
If you are unable to swim out of the rip current, float or calmly tread water. When out of the current, swim towards shore.
If you are still unable to reach shore, draw attention to yourself by waving your arm and yelling for help.
If you see someone in trouble
Get help from a lifeguard.
If a lifeguard is not available, have someone call 911.
Throw the rip current victim something that floats – a lifejacket, a cooler, and inflatable ball.
Yell instructions on how to escape.