Swift Water Rescue: What You Should Know

With summer activities in full swing, many residents are looking towards rivers and lakes to enjoy the last few weeks of hot temperatures. The public does not always have safety at the forefront of theirs mind when comes to summer fun. Although many big departments have teams that specialize in swift water rescue, it’s important to not only have the equipment on-hand, but to train members of your department so you are always prepared for any rescue call you may receive, without putting yourself at risk. Safety is the most critical consideration in any rescue attempt, but is especially crucial when the rescue involves fast-moving water.


  1. Always try the lowest-risk rescue option first. If low-risk options do not work, then proceed to high-risk.
  2. All personnel involved need to wear the proper PPE for successful execution:
    • A PFD (Personal Floatation Device) – WFR recommends Inflatable Vests
    • Head protection that is self-draining with a chin strap – WFR recommends the PMI Advantage Helmet
    • Do not wear heavy turnout clothing to a water rescue call! Lightweight layering is preferred and wet or dry suits are recommended. WFR has many different options that will keep you light and/or dry - Neoprene Rescue Suit, TECGEN® PPE, Urban Search & Rescue (USAR) Gear
    • Lightweight footwear, this means no turnout boots! The last thing you want to happen is being pulled feet-first under the water because of flooded boots.
  3. Have a reach option. Utilize equipment from your fire apparatus, including pike poles, rubbish hooks, ladders, rescue ropes (tension diagonal line), or inflated fire hose.
  4. A throw bag is one of the most versatile pieces of equipment you can use in a swift water rescue. It requires precision and accuracy for proper execution; an underhand throw has proven to be the most effective when reaching a victim.

To view all of our water-rescue products,
please visit: Water Rescue Index