1. #1
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Post Water Rescue Training and SOP's....or lack thereof

    I work for a fairly large (500) member fully paid fire department, with a huge amount of navigable water within our municipal borders. We've recently been discussing what to do when we're called out for a water rescue situation. I'm not so much talking about specialized teams here, but the first responders on an engine company, or a rescue unit. The problem with specialized teams is that they can often take a considerable amount of time to activate, time that isn't always available in a water rescue situation. What, if anything, should we expect these first responders to do???

    Of course, these situations can range from a single drowning victim in a swimming pool or at the beach, to several people clinging precariously to some sort of object in a swift water situation.

    I have a lot of questions and concerns about this topic. What training/certification levels should be required? How many departments, if any, require their firefighters to be rescue swimmers? Do we really expect firefighters to simply "jump in and save someone" with little or no training, equipment or ability?

    It seems there are those that feel that "if we're called, and we respond, we have to do something."

    How many of us would support sending untrained/ill-equipped personnel into a structure fire, or a hazmat situation??? What's the difference between these and a water rescue situation? (I don't believe there is one.)

    I've seen reports of firefighter deaths while attempting water rescues, or training for them. There apparently are no standards for this sort of thing (can't find anything in NFPA regarding this.)

    Any input would be greatly appreciated.

  2. #2
    Firehouse.com Guest


    Look at NFPA 1670.

  3. #3
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Thumbs down

    Training people that are likely first responders to at least some "awareness" level is very important. A very high percentage of victims in water rescues (esp. swiftwater) are would-be rescuers (official and civilian). Just "jumping in" in many instances is a LODD waiting to happen.

    Training everyone to be a rescue swimmer is also impractical. Providing those units likely to respond to water rescue situations (other than swimming pools) may mean equiping apparatus with throw bags, etc. With awareness and training, some degree of effectiveness can be reached. Specialty teams will still be needed - especially when it comes to Class III+ water, boat rescues, etc.

    Basics include: rescue priorities (going in should not be the first option)/analysis; hydrology (ferry angles, low head dams, etc.; and water rescue psychology/physiology concerns (hypothermia, panic, etc.). Other key topics include: basic survival swimming, shore based rescue techniques, self-rescue, rigging/systems, etc.

    Advanced topics include: boat handling/boat-based rescues, helicopter-based rescues/hoists, "live bait"/contact rescues, surf rescue, and more.

    Getting people to some awareness level should be your first goal. Based on need you can go from there. Train/equip those units most likely to respond and go from there.

    Hope this helps.

  4. #4
    Firehouse.com Guest



    You should post this question to the members of the Public Safety Divers Mailing List. There are over 200 members from all over the world on the list. On of the regular contributors, Mark Phillips, has a database of dive SOP/SOG's. The sign-up for the list can be found at http://publicsafetydiving.listbot.com

    I would also checkout http://www.halcyon.net/psd/index.shtml for a look at some of the latest developments in rapid deployment.

    Captain Stephen Grasso
    Lauderhill Fire
    Local 3080 Metro-Broward PFF

  5. #5
    Junior Member

    Join Date
    Jul 2001
    Hunterdon County NJ


    WOW! I'm kind of surprised. You say you have a 500 member dept and have "a huge amount of navigable water" n your coverage area. However, the questions you ask, tell me you should get everyone some very basic training, and fast!

    If you really have all that much water, I am very surprised that you don't already have a full-blown water unit. hope it doesn't mean that your leadership or the town fathers are against this, because it sounds like you really could use their support. There are plenty of knuckleheads out on the water who just can't wait to get themselves into a jam!

    As a number of others here have said, there is a whole lot of good training and information on water ops and safety out there. The IADRS and the forum suggested by the fellow in Fla are excellent places to begin. For basic boat training, I think there's none better than the local US Power Squadron or USCG Aux. After your people have the basics of boat ops down cold, you can move on to more specialized training for situations unique to your area. Just please remember that there's a lot more to water operations than just "Swift-Water", which is the latest buzz-word these days. For instance, just because it's a river, that doesn't mean it's "swift"; although remember that rivers are "alive" and constantly changing. It may be relatively calm today but screaming aftera heavy rainstorm tomorrow. (or even minutes from now, in the case of flash flooding.)

    Sounds like you need to do a good basic analysis of the water in your area and target the kind of boats, calls and training you require. Boats, like training, rivers, and most other factors in water work, are not all the same. One size does not fit all.

    There are also many many excellent books and other printed information available. Too many to mention in fact. Just take a look at the other forums and discussion areas on the net, as well as at the many articles on water ops in the years of magazines like the now defunct 'Rescue'; or Advanced Rescue Technology; Fire Chief; Fire Engineering; Fire Rescue, etc. etc.

    Good luck- and until you have some good basic water-rescue training undr your belt - just stay on shore and throw em a rope! LOL

    Capt Nemo

  6. #6
    Junior Member

    Join Date
    Jul 2001
    Longmont, Colorado


    The key word here is "first responder" and I think that what we need to have them do is size up the situation.
    Unless you can still see the victim, the best thing that you can do is to do size up and quick interviews with witnesses (if there are any). The last known position of the victim is a HUGE bit of information in a lake or pond. Very often we arrive on scene and have to spend our time figuring out things that 1st responders should have done before we got there. The downtime can and has resulted in death.

    Since we specialize in water rescue, all of our vehicles have gumby suits, PFDs, water helmets, throw lines, and rescue ropes. Our divers can and do respond POV (personally owned vehicles). Divers who go POV usually arrive before aparatus and often can get the jump on things.
    A throw line is not a big investment and many of the sheriff's deputies are carrying them in their vehicles now. If the victim is in sight, not too far from shore, and still able to catch a line (or run into one) - a throw line will be of good use.

    In the past several years there has been a number of deaths and injuries to rescuers who simply jump in. They underestimate the force of the water or ice, or its temp. Bunker gear is the worst thing that a rescuer can be wearing when it comes to water rescue. If they actually get hold of the victim they might as well be an anchor.

    My opinion is that 1st responders need to put a damper on their adrenaline and do some scene size up.

    Paul Tiger
    In order to have an effective technology, reality must take precedence over public relations. For nature cannot be fooled.

    Dr. Richard P. Feynman

  7. #7
    Forum Member

    Join Date
    Jun 2001


    I truly believe in the special unit.
    The Dept. I am on has a number of Divers and equipment personnel. My Dept. is Vol. so it takes a little extra time to get rolling, but everyone doing there special job can get us moving in 5 to 10 mins. Our divers are also ready to go as soon as they get off the rig with there drysuits, BCDS and Tanks ready. It is an awesome system, that works great. I am proud to say I am part of it.
    Proud to be IACOJ Illinois Chapter--Deemed "Crustworthy" Jan, 2003

  8. #8
    Senior Member

    Join Date
    Jul 2001


    Regarding SOPs for water rescue incidents, rather than trying to re-invent the wheel, which so many in the fire service seem to do, I would like to refer you to a true expert in the arena of water rescue. The key word here being "RESCUE," not body recovery.
    I suggest that you contact Cpt. Ed Brown, Marine Services Bureau, Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Department, Miami, Florida.
    Cpt. Brown is world renown for his work in fire service water rescue. He is responsible for developing the water rescue program for the Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Dept., which is a 1,500 member department, and curerntly has 450 certified rescue SCUBA divers and over 650 rescue skin divers. Every peice of operations fire and rescue apparatus carries two complete sets of rescue SCUBA gear. Sorry, I digress.
    Cpt. Brown has been recognized for his contribution to the fire service by FIRE ENGINEERING magazine with the "OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT AWARD" February 2000 and has appeared on numerous nationally televised programs regarding water rescue.
    Captain Ed Brown is the man to contact.
    This is not a paid endorsement.
    Good luck on your program!
    "He who saves a single life, is said to have saved the entire world." TM

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