Officials stress water safety after multiple water rescue calls


Harpers Ferry, W. Va. (WDVM) — Taking your phone or another electronic is not what tops the checklist for a day on the river, but officials are urging residents to prioritize safety while near any body of water.

Over the last week, safety crews responded to several water rescue calls to the Bass Rock area on the Potomac River, a popular spot for tubing and kayaking. Volunteer Chief of the Potomac Valley Fire Department, Roger Otzelberger, explains that water safety is incredibly important especially now that the summer has brought warmer weather.

He recommends that every person wear a lifejacket and abstain from drinking alcohol. He also urges residents to take their phone or some communication device so that parties can contact each other if separated or an incident occurs. Chief Otzelberger stated that most water rescue calls around this time of year are for overdue tubers, or tubers who have been reported missing after a period of time by members of their party. This usually happens when a person or group did not meet the rest of their party at a certain pickup point and have no way of making contact.

These water rescue operations are calculated and involve rescue crews from Washington County, Jefferson County, and Frederick County.
that it takes four boats, one from Jefferson County, one from Frederick County, and two from Washington County to properly carry out a water rescue assignment. Those four boats are also accompanied with a medic chase vehicle and an ambulance to assist any victims. The nature of the call must be determined, for example, an injured person, missing person, or a person stuck in the water, before any action is taken in order to adequately approach the situation.

After the situation is confirmed, rescue crews must first determine approximately locate where they are so the boats can be launched and then positioned correctly. Chief Otzelberger emphazised the importance of the safety of the rescue crews. He highlighted that the boats will only go out in pairs, above the incident and one below, in order to prevent any rescue crew from being without assistance.

Each rescue situation is different and is treated accordingly. Chief Otzelberger noted that no rescue is the same and that crews must evaluate where the safest exit point is for each different situation.

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