Here are some of the common causes that lead to rescuers drowning. For each cause, one or more solutions for trying to prevent rescuer drowning are given.
Not wearing a Personal Flotation Device (PFD) and wearing inappropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) in the hot zone
To help prevent fatalities:
- Establish Standard Operational Guidelines that require rescuers to wear a PFD and appropriate mission-specific PPE.
- Do not wear turn-out gear in the hot zone. It is heavy, bulky, and significantly reduces the wearer’s ability to be able to swim.
Rescuers develop competence and knowledge through training and practice.
- Water rescue is low frequency but high risk. An individual may feel that he or she is a strong swimmer but will underestimate the power of swift water and the impact of cold water shock.
- Progressive water rescue training under the guidance and supervision of water rescue instructors can greatly improve the rescuer’s understanding of the power of water.
Underestimating power and dynamics of water
- Learn how to read water and use appropriate terminology when describing features and hazards.
- Engage in training up to their capabilities to improve their water knowledge.
The AHJ determines the need for water rescue and trains personnel. The level of training (Awareness, Operations, and Technician) directly influences how an agency will respond and engage at a water rescue incident. At a minimum, all personnel train to the Awareness level.