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First responders take part in water rescue exercises
Swiftwater rescue teams survey an island in the Merrimack River in Bedford for victims during a water rescue exercise on Thursday. (SUSAN CLARK/Union Leader Correspondent)
A late-April nor'easter with heavy rains has hit the area and the rising Merrimack River is causing record flooding. Multiple emergency calls are coming into 9-1-1 at a steady pace, and rescue teams are being dispatched to save people along the flood plain and those who have fallen into the river during a 500-year flood.
During the water rescue exercise on Thursday, the river level was actually 9.9 feet, which is about 5 feet above normal, said Scott Hunter, Bedford Fire Department public information officer. And, the water temperature was 33 degrees. Rescue teams launched water craft into the river and brought mock victims back to safety.
"It's the largest exercise of its kind, not only in New Hampshire but nationwide," said Hunter. "When we train we train for high risk and low frequency events and to be prepared for whatever gets in the way."
Goffstown Fire Chief Richard O'Brien said five firefighters in his department are members of the Souhegan Mutual Aid Response swiftwater team.
"In a controlled burn you can turn the fire down, in an EMS exercise you can shut down the drill, but you can't turn off the water," Plummer said. "Bedford's fire department has done a great job. Over the last few years, we put a lot of money into this and leading that crusade was Ben Selleck (Bedford's swiftwater/flood rescue team leader). A drill like this is money well spent."
"Until you try the entire plan in totality, that's when you can find and address gaps," Plummer said.
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