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Water rescue training pays off in only two months

According to Scioto County Commissioner Scottie Powell and Rosemount Assistant Fire Chief Eric Brown, when the two set out on a mission with Community Action Organization of Scioto County (CAO) six months ago to plan the formation of a swift water rescue team, they didn’t expect the benefits to include a situation that arose early Tuesday morning that resulted in someone being rescued in a medical emergency.

Around Midnight on Tuesday, with a high of 29 degrees and ice on high waters near flood stage of the mighty Ohio River, Rosemount dispatched two volunteers who recently took part in training provided by CAO and the Scioto County Commissioners.

The rescue professionals, Mr. Hunter Armstrong and Mr. Billy Staker responded to the emergency call coming from a passing commercial barge.

An employee of the barge was having a medical emergency and could not walk. Additionally, they had no way of evacuating the employee. Armstrong and Staker were deployed to the Shawnee Marina, where they could get closest to the barge, only to find ice blocking the waters from the dock. The two emerged themselves in the icy waters and busted the ice free in order to utilize their water craft purchased through the CAO and Commissioner partnership.

They made their way to the barge, assisted the man into their boat, and quickly got him to an ambulance that took him for emergency medical treatment.

“We received the call that a male was on the barge in pretty bad shape and he needed offloaded quickly.  So, they stopped near the Marina in the Ohio River. They needed a boat to offload him to the ambulance on the dock. Once we got to the barge, it took about half an hour to unload him onto our boat, because he could not walk, but they carried themselves as they should and got him to the dock and ambulance. Our guys responded without hesitation. This training has already paid off in multiple ways,” Brown said. “It was a huge training and great opportunity. The guys who responded had no problem because of the training and everything worked as it should.”

Brown said he is proud of the team and says the training provided them with the tools and knowledge to make the run.

“This was a first in my career, you know, a call to a barge for a rescue, but we’re here for whatever happens,” Brown said.

Brown was responsible for pulling together 32 trainees across eight townships that will serve the water rescue team.


“This partnership between townships, County Commissioners, and CAO is a prime example of what we can accomplish when we work together,” Brown said. “This training provides tools and education to hardworking men and women who will be able to save lives while also keeping themselves safe at the same time. We are proud of our work when this is the outcome.”


CAO’s Director of Workforce Solutions and Community Development Luanne Valentine worked with the Ohio Department of Health, dollars within her workforce program, and the County Commissioners, to pull the agreements together and find funding for the training and gear, all which makes the rescue team possible.


“Anytime we can build partnerships using our existing resources to provide new opportunities like this is a reminder of the power of teamwork. Teamwork that makes our community safer, more efficient, and better trained,” Valentine said. “It has been great working with the commissioners, eight townships, and several other partners to give these men and women tools and knowledge to better save lives.”


The training, which took place in November, saw over $100,000 in training and equipment purchased. The intention of the grant was to serve the growing water recreation industry and the townships that experience frequent flooding. The commercial barge rescue was one they did not expect, but are pleased.

“Community Action is here to serve the community in just about any need you can think of,” Valentine said. “While my department primarily focuses on community development and workforce demands, this was more than just building the careers of local rescue personnel. We knew the implications of this advancement could mean life or death and that is a heavy thing to consider. We were dedicated to the formation of this team with that thought in mind every step of the way and it is rewarding to know months later it has already paid for itself.”

The partnership was largely formed by Brown and Powell getting the foundation of the plan in place. Commissioner Powell was happy to hear of the success.

“It’s great to know that this training and its equipment for the first responders are paying off for the community. Not just the community, but those passing by,” Commissioner Powell said. “We were coming at this from a standpoint of putting more people on the rivers for recreation, but it is nice to know that if there is an issue with commerce, that it is rewarding to have this team.”

Powell acknowledged that a lot of people helped make the team possible and looks forward to the success they have in the future.

“I want to thank all of the fire departments who took part in the training. They took a long, unpaid weekend to undergo this training and learn these skills. I appreciate Community Action for being able to pull together this funding and training for the community. Seeing it paying off is so rewarding.”


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