Fathom Academy swift water training facility is one of a kind

Fathom Academy is a swift water rescue training facility in Georgetown.

Fathom Academy is a swift water rescue training facility in Georgetown.

Image description
Fathom Academy
Image description
Fathom Academy
Image description
Fathom Academy
After spending much of his life in water as an athlete, a dolphin trainer and a Navy diver—followed by time as a film producer—Barton Bollfrass decided to combine the two worlds of water training and immersive film sets to build the only indoor facility designed for swift-water rescue training in the world in Georgetown.

At Fathom Academy, a 67,000-gallon pool large enough to contain at least three full-size cars lies at the center of the facility, which opened in May 2018. With the capability to simulate rain, thunder and sirens and rushing water with speeds up to 9 knots, or about 10.4 mph, on the surface, the pool helps first responders and swift-water rescuers train for real-life situations.

“I spent my whole life in the water, and I began to notice that in all the swift-water training, [first responders] were training in a river on a sunny day with no car [and] no victim,” company CEO Bollfrass said. “That’s not how swift-water rescues are [done].”

Flash flooding is the deadliest weather-related event in the U.S., according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. And in one-third of swift-water rescues, Bollfrass said it is the rescuers who lose their lives.

Bollfrass said while he was a film producer he would see elaborate movie sets built for action scenes involving fires and trains derailing into rivers only to watch the sets be torn down after filming. He said he wished the sets could stay in place, if only for a day, so first responders could use them to practice their water-rescue skills.

“I just built, in essence, movie sets for water rescue with no camera,” Bollfrass said.

Rescuers practice various scenarios and use boats, crushed cars and body dummies as well as each other to simulate rescues. The facility’s lighting can also go completely dark to replicate a night rescue, Bollfrass said.

“We try to make it as real as possible,” he said.
By Ali Linan
Ali Linan began covering Georgetown for Community Impact Newspaper in 2018. Her reporting focuses on education and Williamson County. Ali hails from El Paso and graduated from Syracuse University in 2017.


MOST RECENT

Vanity Skin & Brow offers eyebrow and waxing services, microdermabrasion, microblading, chemical peels, lash lifts and extensions, spray tanning and more. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Vanity Skin & Brow Studio relocates from Georgetown to Austin

Vanity Skin & Brow offers eyebrow and waxing services, microdermabrasion, microblading, chemical peels, lash lifts and extensions, spray tanning and more.

Here are the coronavirus data updates to know in Williamson County. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)
Williamson County sees jump in reported coronavirus cases with 187 on Aug. 7

The county, however, did not report any additional deaths.

Rapid nasal swab antigen tests are recommended as options for individuals who were potentially exposed to a confirmed positive carrier, as well as for people traveling, returning to work or undergoing a medical procedure. (Courtesy Total Primary Care)
Find out where to get a 15-minute COVID-19 test in Austin, Dallas-Fort Worth metros

Rapid nasal swab antigen tests are recommended as options for individuals who were potentially exposed to a confirmed positive carrier, as well as for people traveling, returning to work or undergoing a medical procedure.

A mother and daughter visit at Seasons Assisted Living & Memory Care in Conroe earlier in the pandemic. (Courtesy Seasons Assisted Living & Memory Care)
Texas allows limited visitations to nursing homes, long-term care facilities

Facilities that meet the requirements will allow limited visitations, but you still will not be able to hug or kiss your loved one.

The county now has over 6,000 total confirmed cases. (Screenshot courtesy Williamson County)
Williamson County adds 109 new cases of coronavirus, 3 deaths Aug. 6

The county now has over 6,000 total confirmed cases.

The Thrift Shop is an upscale resale shop run by volunteers and stocked with donations of new and gently used clothing, accessories, jewelry, housewares, furniture and decor. It also provides hand sanitizer for patrons. (Courtesy Assistance League of Georgetown Area)
Despite coronavirus-related restrictions, Assistance League of Georgetown Area keeps providing for those in need

Last year the Assistance League provided 2,260 Georgetown-area students with new school clothing and shoes through its Operation School Bell program, which will need to look different this year.

The overall proposed budget comes in at 10% lower than the adopted fiscal year 2019-20 budget. (John Cox/Community Impact Newspaper)
Georgetown's proposed 2020-21 budget lowers property tax rate, focuses on maintaining services as pandemic continues

The proposed budget includes funding for about 15 new positions, including staff for Fire Station Number 7 and two police officers.

Williamson County saw a big drop in daily reported coronavirus cases Aug. 5. (Screenshot courtesy Williamson County)
Williamson County sees big drop in daily reported coronavirus cases Aug. 5

The county did report three additional coronavirus-related deaths.

Prima Dora sells unique gifts by local artists, and it opened in Georgetown on Aug. 4. (Courtesy Prima Dora)
Prima Dora shop, new coffeehouse now open, plus more Georgetown business news

Wish Well House is a wedding and event venue slated to open in 2021 at 511 S. Main St., Georgetown.