IRB School

I.R.B. Guide School

Inflatable Rescue Boat Guide School

**This is a Pilot Course & Continuing Education Only
No Certification or Credentialing is Awarded** Pre-register Here


Course Overview

In an on-going effort to provide certified swiftwater rescue technicians with advanced level training. We are now offering a re-designed course for those agencies who provide raft and powered Inflatable Rescue Boat (I.R.B.) operations as a part of their water rescue services. Having a I.R.B. provides responders with a lower risk alternative towards removing victims from flooding and/or swiftwater environments where watercraft may be suitable for evacuating survivors.  Historically, few rescue teams ever receive realistic training in navigating a raft or powered craft in moving water. Guiding a raft nor operating apower rescue boat is not an easy task, it is an acquired skill set that rescuers must be proficient before attempting rescues in moving rapids or floodwaters.

The I.R.B. School provides the student with a unique perspective towards various IRB operations through lecture and hands-on training. This course also allows the student to practice their acquired skills sets during a real time scenario-based Large area search and rescue operation simulation. This course will introduced you to various surface and swiftwater environments, as well as, becoming proficient in raft guiding among various rapid classifications from class I to Class III.


This is a pilot course for 2019 and also a continuing education course for certified TR-Water Rescue or Swiftwater Rescue Technicians only. There is no FEMA credentialing nor certifications issued. 


Class Details:

Students should anticipate traveling between river sites up to 50-60 miles  from the Andrews, NC region. Training loactions will vary due to river generation schedules by local power companies. This course teaches basic & advanced paddle strokes and raft guide skills sets, hydrology recognition and avoidance of common river hazards, raft and power boat ferrying, eddy-catching, crew recovery, as well as, craft up-righting.

In addition to boat operations, the fundamentals of GPS awareness, and operating as a boat crew during large-area flood search operations as a rescue task force or strike team will also be used during a real-time search & rescue scenario.

Based upon river conditions and water availability from local power companies, we are tentatively scheduling a night raft trip where students will learn the extreme conditions of guiding or operating powered craft in night conditions under a rescue mode operation. 

Upon completion, participants will feel competent in guiding class 2 & 3 whitewater and operating a powered craft in surface and swiftwater environments by the end of the 3-day course, as well as, be competent in rope rigging operations and deployment and recovering watercraft during emergency or challenging locations.


Class Info:

The syllabus for the course will incorporate the following objectives:
  • Types of Rafts & Powered IRB’s

  • Rope Ops. and Rafts

  • Raft Construction & Emergency Repairs

  • Large Area Searches 

  • Boat Deployment & Transporting Practices

  • Rescue Ops. from the raft.

  • Inflation Considerations

  • Boat & Rope Rigging

  • River Reading and Hydrology Review

  • Guiding on The River & Commands

  • Paddling & Guiding Techniques

  • Night Boat Operations

  • Boat Pins

  • GPS Awareness

  • Rescue Scenarios

  • Raft Flips & Crew Recovery


Day #1:

Location:  Class will meet at the Fontana Lake Boat Launch site at  the Lemmons Branch Boat Launch Site in in Tsali Recreation Area near Almond, NC off NC Hwy 28. (See map below) and will begin with IRB construction and repairs and basic surface water boat operations familiarization then move onto the Nantahala River where our paddle boat operations portion will begin.

Day #2:

We will begin at the Nantahala Rive Launch Site at the intersection of Wayah Rd. & NC Hwy. 19/74 for the swiftwater boat ops. and rope rigging portion and will begin the first of a series of raft trips and several boat-based highline systems and up-righting the IRB. Following the afternoon portion of class, a rare nighttime opportunity to learn operating or guiding an IRB at night.

Day #3:

The final day of class will be spent practicing IRB powerboat rescue operations in a moving water environment. Objectives include Bowman and Tiller Operator responsibilities. Students will also launch and deploying Power IRB’s in Non-traditional methods without a boat ramp.

Due to power company water generation schedules, a location suitable for class objectives will be selected, therefore, some extensive travel may be required. 


River Location Options:

River locations are subject to change based upon river levels or power generation schedules by Duke Energy or TVA.
  • Tuckasegee

  • Nantahala

  • French Broad

  • Oceoee

  • Notley

  • Appalachia

  • Hiawasee

  • Nolichucky

***Therefore, Extensive travel may be required*



Currently certified TR Water Rescue,  Rescue 3 SRT I’s or SRT Advanced students. Students should anticipate conducting rescues involving swimming and rafting class III or higher rapids. Some aspects of the NIMS Swiftwater Rescue Task Book will be met.

No extensive health conditions

Proof of workers compensation or personal insurance

Cost & Registration:

First Time Students: $250 USD



Boats: Agencies sending students to this course are encouraged to bring their own Inflatable whitewater raft and power boat with a minimum 4 -5 chambers with paddles.


  • An approved USCG Type V personal flotation device (PFD)

  • A rock climbing or water rescue vented helmet

  • Drysuits or wetsuits are encouraged.

  • Rope or mechanic gloves for rope rescue

  • Waterproof Headlamp for night operations

  • Snacks  & water during class

  • Eye Protection

  • Clothing suitable for the environment


The IRB School course is a very dynamic and labor intensive class. Consider lodging in the Bryson City or Andrews, NC  regions of Western, NC.
Meals, snacks, and travel are at the expense of each student. Students must plan on lunch and possibly a supper on the river, as well.   Please bring a hydration system for river trips.


Training Locations

Day #1 ; Fontana Lake

Lemmons Branch Launch Site; Tsali Recreation Area
Tsali Rd, Almond, NC 28702

Day #2 ; Nantahala River

Nantahala River Private Boater Launch Site
Hwy 74 & Wayah Rd.Intersection