Sierra Rescue FAQs – Information about our Courses

Why Sierra Rescue?

Train hard, be safe, have fun! At Sierra Rescue, we guarantee that you will leave your course feeling energized and empowered with new rescue tools in your pocket and ready to play safer on the river, rock or wilderness. We strive to provide meaningful, scenario based training to our students that gives them rescue tools that will work in real rescues. We contract with the best Instructors in the industry to bring you the highest quality trainings. All of our courses are hands-on and we tailor our trainings to meet the needs of many different agencies, individuals and teams of rescue professionals. We are passionate about rescue and are proud to share these skills with all of our students!

What are the course times?

Our courses typically run from 8:30AM – 5:30PM. You will receive an email confirmation upon registration that provides the specific times for the course you are registered in. Didn’t receive the email? Please contact us at and we will resend!

I can’t find my course location! 

We train at numerous locations throughout the United States and world-wide. Please check your confirmation email for your specific meeting location. Didn’t receive the email? Please contact us at and we will resend!

What is the difference between the Swiftwater and Flood Courses and the River Rescue Certification courses?

There is very little difference in the CONTENT of the Swiftwater and Flood Rescue Tech (SWFR) and the River Rescue Certification (RRC). The SWFR courses are tailored for professional rescuers and the RRC, RRC-Pro and RRC-Elite courses are for river guides, private boaters, SUP’ers, and packrafters. The RRC-Gov and River and Stream Safety (RSS) courses are designed for hydrologists, biologists, fish technicians and other agencies/groups that work in and around water. Each course comes with a different emphasis and is tailored to different student interests and abilities. This provides a great opportunity for our students to mingle with other professionals who may have a different application for Swiftwater Rescue, but are interested in learning the same skills to preform a whitewater rescue.

Who should register for the the Swiftwater and Flood Rescue class?

Firefighters, FEMA, Military, Agency Rescuers requiring NFPA compliance. The Swiftwater and Flood Rescue Tech 1 (SWFR-1) is a certification that meets the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) standards for training and is a MUST for anyone working with a Fire Department, FEMA Agency or Military organization. It specifically meets NFPA 1670 and NFPA 1006 requirements and is the first step towards becoming a “Technician Level” operator.

Whats the difference between NFPA 1006 and 1670?
NFPA 1006 lays out rescuer training levels, and what knowledge and skills a rescuer needs to have to operate at each level of operational capacity; Awareness, Operations and Technician.

NFPA 1670 lays out the Agency Having Jurisdiction’s (AHJ) responsibilities to the rescuers being sent to incidents. NFPA 1670 is very clear that in order for someone to be sent to a Swiftwater incident, they must have an Awareness level of training at a minimum, to respond.

NFPA 1006 includes the qualifications that each level of rescuer must have: Awareness, Operations, and Technician. In order to operate at the Technician Level in Swiftwater Rescue, a rescuer must be able to demonstrate that they have the knowledge and skills listed in NFPA 1006.

It really becomes the burden of the AHJ to decide how to accomplish these objectives. The trainings are one step in an Agencies process of having trained personnel to react to different Wilderness type rescues (floodwater, rope, swiftwater, confined space, etc).

As a VERY brief overview:

Awareness: Able to understand hazards, assess resource needs, etc.

Operations: Able to enter the environment to some extent based on training and understanding of the environment they are entering.

Technician: The ability to LEAD an evolution, including safety assessments, understanding environment, making decisions, etc.

The Swiftwater and Flood Rescue Tech 1 (SWFR-1) training addresses training for the knowledge and skill base to be at the Operations level. The Swiftwater and Flood Rescue Tech Advanced (SWFR-A) is another step, and addresses more of the requirements for the Technician level.

It really becomes the AHJ’s job to decide how to determine what skill level it’s responders have. A yearly assessment is required.

What is the Professional Qualification Assessment: Water?
The Pro-quals are a 3rd party assessment of an individual rescuer’s ability to perform in the Swiftwater environment. It includes skills testing, and technician level testing of the ability to oversee an incident. A rescuers knowledge base is tested by a written test, as well as verbal testing by the Instructor. It is strictly an objective testing (vs training) of a rescuer’s knowledge base and skill level.

A taskbook is provided to serve as the documentation an Agency would use to document the continued training referred to in NFPA 1670. Most times, we do not have folks doing the PRO-QUALS unless they are on the Instructor pathway with Rescue 3. At that point, the documentation of their ongoing training becomes relevant.

Currently our courses do not include “skills testing”; just the performance of skills and the accumulation of knowledge about the discipline and the hazards within the discipline. The skills sheets document the exposure to the knowledge and the actual skills performed in the course, but do not assess an individuals ability to perform those skills, or retain that knowledge at a later date. If you want to schedule a testing day, please call 530-902-6122 or email us at

What is the difference between the California State Fire Marshal & Swiftwater and Flood Rescue Tech Courses?

The actual content in these courses is the same. Both courses meet the requirements of NFPA 1670 Standard for Operations Level Technical Rescue Incidents in the area of water. The main difference is in the quality of instruction. Sierra Rescue has higher requirements for their instructors, and our Instructors are certified WORLD wide, not just in the State of California. You can take a SRI certification anywhere in the US or world, where the State Fire Marshal Certs are only recognized in individual States. With that being said, the CSFM courses are starting to be mandated in the State of California. To ensure you’re getting the right certification your needs, in ALL of our CSFM courses students will also receive a SRI Certification.

Who should register for the RRC class?

Recreational river users such as rafters, cat boaters, kayakers, pack rafters, canoeists, riverboarders and SUP paddlers should choose the River Rescue Certification (RRC). This special curriculum that has been developed by Sierra Rescue to train private boaters, kayakers and non-profit organizations in the techniques and thought processes of Swiftwater Rescue. The RRC comes with a certification which is good for 3 years. This is not the right course for you if you have no whitewater experience. The course is fast paced and does not cover the basics of hydrology or introduction to swimming or whitewater. If you are a recreational river user with some river experience, a kayaker that wants to dial in your rescue skills, or a private boater who is interested in being safer on the river, this is the right course for you!

Who should register for the RRC-Pro class?

Professional boaters, river guides and kayakers that spend a good portion of their lives on the river in a professional capacity. The RRC-Pro was written for Professional boaters, by Professional boaters and comes with a certification which is good for 3 years.  This energetic, and physical curriculum will be challenging and include a skills testing component to emphasize knowing your own limits,  skill level,  knowledge of basic rope skills and the ability to execute a rescue as part of a team. This course is not for those with limited river experience or limited river days each year. If you spend a good portion of your life on the river, especially in a professional setting, this is the course for you!

If I am a river guide or kayaker currently certified in the RRC, how do I upgrade to the PRO?

If you’re a river guide or kayaker and received your RRC certification, you can upgrade to the RRC-Pro when you recert! In order to do this, you should have a solid knowledge of ALL the skills you learned in the RRC. If you are rusty, either get ON IT! or recertify in the RRC. The RRC- PRO is a high intensity, fast paced course designed for river guides and professional kayakers that have solid Class 3-4 boating skills, and an understanding of all the river rescue basics. It is a certification recognized WORLD WIDE, and there is an actual skills testing segment at the end of the course. If you’d like to upgrade to the Professional certification prior to your River Rescue Certification expiring, please let us know. You will receive a discount for recertifying and upgrading prior to your expiration. Please email us –

Looking for more differences between the RRC and RRC-Pro? Click Here!

Who should register for the River Rescue Certification for Agencies (RRC-Gov) and River and Stream Safety (RSS) course?

Fisheries, Agencies, Search and Rescue, hydrologist, biologists. : The RRV-Gov curriculum is designed for fisheries folks and other rescue professionals that are required to have an NFPA compliant certification for Swiftwater Rescue. The curriculum is more flexible and the emphasis is on quick, fast, efficient and low tech solutions to whitewater rescue problems. If you are not interested in training towards a “Technician Level” certification but still want training that fits into the NFPA guidelines, the RRC-Gov is for you. When booking a custom RRC-gov course we can do either a 2 or 3 day training, depending on the experience level of the group and the funding the agency has available.   The River and Stream Safety (RRS) courses are for folks that work for agencies that do not want, or can’t,  train their folks to rescue and focuses on hazard evaluation and self rescue. The RRS can be done in 1, 2 or 3 day formats depending on the groups upcoming projects or needs.

How do I register for a Sierra Rescue course?

Registering for our classes is EASY! Just find the class you would like to register for on the website and click on the “Register” button next to the course dates. You can fill out all the information online and even process your credit card payment through our secure form. If you would prefer to pay by check, you may select that option as well. Please note that to reserve your space in a course, you must have paid for it before the first day of the course.

Where does Sierra Rescue teach?

Sierra Rescue is based in Truckee, CA, but we teach our courses all over the United States, and the world. Although most of our trainings occur in California, Arizona, Idaho, Oregon and Washington, we have also taught in more than 20 other states. We have also lead courses in Malaysia, Costa Rica, India and many other countries. We are fortunate to have so many great opportunities to follow our students to their far off places. If you have a great location for a course and would like to have us come to you, contact us and we can schedule a training in your area!

Where should I stay during my course?

All of the training sites used by Sierra Rescue have a nearby hotel, motel, B&B or camping accommodation available, usually within 30 minutes driving. Please CLICK HERE for the specific location you are interested in to learn more about the available accommodation in that location.

What do I need to bring for a swiftwater class?

Having the right equipment for your course is very important! Students who do not come properly prepared for the conditions will be limited in their learning opportunities and may not be able to participate in all aspects of the course. Please come prepared! Here is a general list of the most basic requirements for the SWFR or RRC.

  • Wetsuit or Drysuit – Drysuits are always recommended as weather and water temperatures are variable.
  • Thermal insulation – Non-cotton thermal layers such as wool or polypropylene will help keep you warm when wet.
  • Personal Flotation Device (PFD) – Type III or V with whistle and knife (optional). Feel free to bring a rescue PFD if you have one as we will use this in the course!
  • Helmet – Lightweight swiftwater or climbing helmet.
  • Hard soled wetsuit boots or athletic/ outdoor shoes with wool socks work great!
  • Wetsuit gloves (optional)
  • Personal fins (optional)
  • Extra warm clothing and a dry change for the end of the day.

Is there a minimum age?

Yes, all participants must be 16 years old or above. All minors must bring with them the Participation Agreement signed by their parent or legal guardian and the course registration form. You will not be allowed to participate in the course without the signed Participation Agreement and Registration form.

Is food provided by Sierra Rescue?

Sierra Rescue does not provide lunch or food for any of our courses. Please come prepared with a minimum:

  • High energy, healthy sack lunch
  • Lots of drinking water, at least 2L per day (fresh water is available at most sites)!
  • Snacks for between evolutions/ breaks

What is your cancellation and/or rescheduling policy?

Note: Any cancellation/reschedule must be received in writing to

Cancellation/Reschedule Policy:
More than 30 days before the first day of your course:
If you reschedule you will get a 100% credit. If you cancel we will give you a 95% refund.

Between 30-14 days before the first day of your course: If you reschedule you will get a 50% credit. If you cancel we will give you a 45% refund.

If you cancel less than 14 days before the first day of your course, no rescheduling, no refunds.

Please note: If you become injured, we will reschedule you for a 15% fee. We do not wish to have you pay for a course you can not attend, but in order to maintain the quality of our courses, we can not be flexible for non medical related reasons.

We are very flexible in arranging payment plans for Agencies. Let us know if you need a different arrangement. We understand that some Agencies prefer to pay after the course is complete. That is fine, as long as payment is guaranteed whether the folks attend or not.

Please understand that we turn folks away for our trainings, have a low Instructor to Student ratio, and want to do everything we can to serve you! We love what we do, and are passionate about getting you the training you need.

I lost my card! Can I get a duplicate?

Yes, duplicate cards are available for a $25 charge. If you lost your card, give us a call with your payment information and we’ll get you a duplicate made. You can also email us at and we will send you an invoice to pay online.