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Special Operations Air Rescue Team
It only takes minutes if not seconds for a severe thunderstorm to drop large amounts of water and create a torrential and life-threatening flood. And when we do get excessive amounts of rain, these events become evident on a larger scale, such as the “Great Flood of 1993!” that happened here in our own "valley". In the Fire Service we refer to this as a "swiftwater rescue". Although 65 of Monarch Fire Protection District's Paramedic/Firefighters have been trained in "Flood/Swiftwater Rescue", it is not always possible to deploy them in such events. Many times it is just too dangerous to send anyone into the water, even if by boat, without adding more victims to the situation. With the existence of several high rise buildings within Chesterfield and the surrounding areas, and the plan for many more in the coming years, progress has challenged the Fire Service to be able to rescue victims trapped on upper floors due to fire or collapsed stairwells, without being able to access them from below (remember the World Trade Center). This creates a situation where ladder trucks and high angle rope rescue techniques fall short. It is not acceptable for us to "hope" that these people will survive until we can finally reach them with conventional methods of rescue. Realizing these weaknesses, the Monarch Fire Protection District had entered into an agreement several years ago with the St. Louis County Police Division of Air Support, to form an elite group of Helicopter Rescue Swimmers to form our Special Operations Air Rescue (SOAR) Team. These individuals are highly trained in all aspects of rescue, both land and waterborne, from a helicopter platform. This is a rescue team that is the only one of its kind in the mid-west region. Instead of hoping for the best in situations that would limit other Departments abilities to act, we have in place, a solid, and well trained team, that can essentially respond to, and mitigate, "ANY" rescue request that would typically overwhelm even the most prepared Departments.