Water drowning incidents generally occur because victims either knowingly enter the water, or otherwise find themselves in the water and unable to remove themselves from the dangers associated with that body of water.
There is always a possibility of more victims becoming stranded because of the good intentions of caring citizens, and/or untrained rescue personnel, trying to help.
The purpose of emergency response, a water rescue shall be defined as any incident that involves the removal of victim(s) from any body of water other than a swimming pool. This shall include rivers, creeks, lakes, washes, storm drains, or any body of water, whether still of moving.
The first unit on scene needs to size-up the situation, give an on-scene report and assume command. A command checklist is an excellent resource to have, especially for these low-frequency calls. As quickly as possible, command needs to determine the number and condition of victims. If a rescue is deemed necessary, consider the need for additional personnel and equipment.
A plan of action now needs to be formed. From lowest to highest risk, the options are reach, throw, row, go and helo. Reaching and throwing are considered non-technical rescue actions. Only technical rescue technicians with proper training should attempt row, go and helo.
The objective of the rescue operation is to make contact with the victim, apply protective equipment and remove the victim to a safe area.
This is obviously the most hazardous time for the rescuers. Command must continually monitor the situations that could adversely affect the rescue, such as a rise in water, top loads, suspended loads or shifting of the vehicle.
Once the victim has been removed to a safe area, medical personnel should be on scene to evaluate and transport to the hospital if necessary.
Upstream Group: Responsible to watch for and advise of any obstacles and/or hazards (i.e. top loads, suspended loads) that may be floating downstream and may hinder the rescue operation.
Downstream Group: Responsible to be prepared to rescue victims and rescuers that may be swept downstream. All members in this group should have a throw rope bag in hand and deployed on both side to the bank.
River Right/Left Group: Responsible for rigging the opposite end of a rope rescue system being set up.
Rescue Group: Responsible for developing an action with Command. Once action plan has been developed, rescue group will execute the plan in the safest possible manner.
Medical Group: Responsible for providing First Aid treatment to victims removed from the water.