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Anne Arundel County firefighters train for water rescues ahead of Hurricane Florence

The latest predictions from the National Weather Center have Maryland avoiding catastrophic damage from Hurricane Florence, but we haven’t been given the all clear yet.

On Wednesday afternoon, two Anne Arundel County fire department companies held joint special operations training ahead of the storm’s arrival.

The Jones Station and Severn Fire Station companies meet every Wednesday and Saturday to train together. Each session is tailored to deal with a timely topic, county fire spokesman Capt. Russ Davies said.

The companies have previously practiced handling cave-ins, hazardous materials and structural collapses. Wednesday’s training was devoted to swift-water rescues.

Firefighters have performed more water rescues this season than they typically would because of an abnormal amount of rainfall, Capt. Paul Supko said.

"We've had these microstorms that follow a certain path and flood areas that we're not typically seeing flood," he said.

During a recent period of heavy rainfall, the department made as many as 15 rescues in a 24-hour period, Davies said.

Here’s how they want you to stay safe during the approaching storm:

At home

If you know a high-caliber storm is coming, Supko said, it’s best to evacuate to a safe place.

But if you’re in a home and start to notice water coming in, the first thing he recommends is to be proactive — call for help before it’s too late.

“Typically people call when they’re well beyond the point of being rescued quickly,” he said. “The sooner that you call, the quicker that we can send a company there to assist you.”

Grab your cellphone, your charger and any pets, and move to a higher floor as soon as you can. Be prepared to get close to a window, stay on the line with 911 and they’ll discuss techniques to help the rescue team identify which house you’re in.

In a vehicle

“If you see water on the street, turn around,” Supko said. “There’s always an opportunity to wait, to find a different direction to go in and make other arrangements.”

One common occurrence he finds is people who see flooding in an area that’s familiar to them and risk driving through it.

Water as little as 9 or 12 inches can float your car, he said. His rule of thumb is if the water comes up halfway to your wheels, you could lose control of your car as it starts to float.

Supko also cautions against attempting a water rescue on your own.

“With water, it’s very unpredictable. It’s powerful, it’s relentless, it’ll take your feet out from under you with as little as 6 inches of water,” he said. “Whether it’s floodwater or moving water, you’re going to come into many different hazards.”

So what’s the safest option if you’re stuck on the road?

“Stay put in the car. And if you can, dial 911. Hopefully, if you can’t, somebody else has seen you and they’ve dialed 911 for you,” Supko said.

And if you can avoid it, don’t try getting out of the car. Even if it seems like it’s holding steady on the ground, unnecessary movement could shift the weight around inside enough to cause your vehicle to start floating.

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