Learn how to assess a water rescue scenario. It covers the 10-20 system, prioritizing casualties, planning a rescue, and steps that anyone can follow when they see someone that needs help in the water.
The information in this post is from the book “Swim Workouts and Water Rescue Skills” by Sam Fury.
How to Assess a Water Rescue Scenario
When You See Someone in Trouble
Anyone can use the following steps if they see someone that needs help in the water. They are simple steps that you can teach your friends and family, including children.
- Keep calm. A person that panics cannot think clearly.
- Shout for help as loud as you can.
- Ask everyone else to clear the area.
- Ensure there will be no immediate danger to you while attempting the rescue. Animals, electricity, fire, etc.
- Use land-based rescue techniques in the order given.
- If you cannot perform a land-based rescue, call the emergency services.
IMPORTANT: Unless trained in water rescue, never enter the water to try and save a victim. A drowning victim can pull you down with him. Even when trained, entering the water is a last resort.
The 10:20 System
When you are responsible for the well-being of others near water you can use the 10:20 system. It is a good way to oversee a designated area.
The 10 stands for 10 seconds. You scan the designated area (e.g., a pool) from one side to the other in 10 seconds.
The 20 means that you should be no more than 20 seconds away from getting to any swimmer in your area.
Casualty Priorities and Recognition
This chapter explains the different types of casualties. When there is more than one victim, rescue them in the order given.
The general rule of thumb is to rescue those making the least noise first and the unconscious last.
The four types of casualties in order of rescue priority are as follows:
- Conscious non-swimmers. Unable to swim and usually vertical in the water. They may grab hold and drag you down.
- Conscious weak swimmers. Can swim but either exhausted or in some other distress. Usually in a forward position attempting to swim. Often co-operative in a rescue.
- Conscious injured swimmers. Can usually keep themselves afloat but have an injury that they may or may not tell you about. They could be holding their injury. Be careful of the injury while performing a rescue.
- Unconscious swimmers. Often floating motionless and face down in the water, but can be at any depth.
You should rescue the unconscious victim last because they may already be a lost cause. You do not want to waste time that you could spend rescuing a victim with a higher chance of survival.
Recognizing a Distressed Swimmer
A distressed swimmer is any conscious swimmer that is having trouble in the water. If he does not find safety he can become an unconscious swimmer. You must learn how to recognize the distressed swimmer so you can rescue them before it is too late.
There are two basic types of swimmers in distress: non-panicking or panicking.
The non-panicking casualty knows they need help to get to safety. They will be trying to communicate this to you.
A panicking casualty is likely to already be in the drowning phase. He will be thrashing around trying to keep afloat. He may be trying to communicate (either silent or noisy) but it will be ineffective.
Making a Plan
It is very important to create a plan of rescue instead of acting straight away. The human brain can process a lot of information at great speed, even in high-stress situations. Once you recognize a casualty it will only take a couple of seconds to assess the situation. This will keep you safe and will also give the victim the best chance of survival.
The first thing you should look for is possible dangers. Why is the victim in trouble in the first place? Is the danger still there?
Next, consider your victim’s profile. Is he big, small, an adult, child, unconscious, panicked, injured, etc?
Finally, what rescue equipment do you have, and/or what can you improvise?
Use the information you gather and the knowledge of your own abilities to decide the best form of rescue.
Due to the endless possibilities of scenarios you will need to be very flexible. For example, should you take the time to find a rescue aid? And if so, which rescue aid is best for the situation?
Photo Credit: Senior Airman Joseph A. Pagán Jr.
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