With river levels rising rapidly due to spring runoff, the Missoula Fire Department shared some vital lifesaving tips on what to do if someone falls into the fast moving water.

KGVO News reached out to Battalion Chief Chad Kidd who said the Clark Fork River is moving at 7,700 cubic feet per second, but fully expects that level to increase to over 9,000 cubic feet per second.

“The water is from runoff from snow so it is extremely cold,” said Battalion Chief Kidd. “Might be a nice warm day but the water is extremely cold, so hypothermia is a huge issue if you go in. Because of that, I would highly recommend that you keep dogs on a leash near swift water and just keep your kids in sight and away from the river. You might also just look for an alternate spot to recreate.”

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Should the worst happen and someone falls into the river, Kidd said the first step is to stay calm. If you can’t affect a rescue, call 9-1-1 immediately.

“Have somebody call as quickly as possible and we will get units coming as quickly as we can,” he said. “Try to maintain eye contact with them. If you can reach them with a stick, there's a technique that’s called Reach, Throw and Go. So your first effort is to reach them with a stick or by hand if you can, while keeping yourself safe. The biggest thing is try to maintain eye contact with them. Keep them in sight and track where they're at, and if we can get there we'll do everything possible to help them out.”

Kidd detailed what vital information the rescue team needs that you can supply to help perform a successful rescue.

“Which side of the river (the person is on) will cut things in half,” he said. “If we're on one side and the incident on the other, we've got to find a bridge to get over. If it's in town, which is our response area, the bridges are really good landmarks where they went in because what we'll focus on is some area where they were last seen downstream. If you do maintain contact with them, and you can stay on the phone and give us real time updates of where they're at, then we can we can preposition downstream and hopefully intercept them.”

Kidd said his river rescue team undergoes extensive training  every year to hone their skills.

“Every year we take everybody through a (rescue) scenario,” he said. “It's a very formal response. There are positions for each participant. The captain will maintain radio contact, and the tailboard guy in the dry suit will do the launch. The other one is responsible for gear checks as we go down and then there's a set startup procedure and launch procedure. It's as timely as we can possibly make it so we can get out into the river and hopefully get there as efficiently as quickly as we can.”

Kidd emphasized preventive safety precautions to keep people and pets away from the river, and always have your phone charged and ready.

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