By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Life-saving training
Rock Island site for swiftwater rescue
Placeholder Image

Recent tragedies at Rock Island State Park show how crucial it is to keep safety in mind at all times around water.
It was with safety in mind a group of 70 swiftwater rescuers from Texas spent last week training at Rock Island. The group from Texas set up a large encampment at the state park and trained jointly with park rangers from throughout Tennessee.
Some participants drove more than 20 hours to come to Rock Island for this training session.
“Safety around water, especially moving water, is extremely important in our region with so many waterways,” said Rock Island State Park manager Damon Graham. “Most park visitors do not realize the power of water. We have had several serious incidents at Rock Island in recent years. Many times people overestimate their abilities and underestimate the conditions. At Rock Island, we have worked to increase awareness and increase safety training. Last week’s training is part of this initiative.”
Rock Island State Park suffered a rash of drownings in 2011 from July to October. Four people drowned at the state park during that span.
That was part of an especially deadly year for the Center Hill Lake waterway, of which Rock Island is a part. Ten people drowned on that waterway in 2011.
Fortunately, 2012 and 2013 haven’t been marred by similar tragedies. However, a group of hikers from Hendersonville narrowly escaped disaster in June 2013 when they were trapped on an island below Great Falls Dam when the floodgates were opened.
Rock Island State Park generally gets around 600,000 visitors a year with the bulk coming when the weather begins to warm.
“With warmer weather approaching, we ask all potential visitors this summer to please keep safety at the top of their list when visiting,” said Graham.
Graham continued, “Visitors should use extreme caution when in areas downstream of the dam or powerhouse as large amounts of water can be released from either of these locations at any time without any warning. When TVA sounds sirens or flashes warning lights, visitors should evacuate immediately. Always wear a lifejacket, avoid areas of moving water and avoid alcohol. We also strongly discourage jumping off any bluffs as we have seen multiple serious injuries from those decisions. We hope visitors will come out to enjoy the great scenery and the water this summer, but hope they will use better judgment because a situation can turn deadly in mere seconds.”
Tennessee state park rangers and the group from Texas practiced rescue skills and certifications throughout the week. Participants received advanced training on swiftwater boat operations, rope systems and dynamic swimmer recovery, among many other skills.
The training was a joint venture between Tennessee State Parks and the Texas Extension Service Task Force, which provides statewide disaster and flood responses for the state of Texas.
“Rock Island provided the perfect location for participants to complete all certifications in one centralized location,” said Graham.