Major Greg Merrell of the Oklahoma City Fire Department presented his course Swift & Flood Water Response and Rescue Considerations on day one of EMS Today 2017.
In his presentation, he stressed that water rescue is often the most performed technical rescue by first responders. Wherever you live, regardless of population or whether an urban or rural community, flooding is a major problem and water rescues are imminent. Although water rescues are performed often, they are still one of the most dangerous and dynamic rescues first responders may encounter.
Merrell discussed many water rescue situations that first responders may encounter and the dangers and hazards associated with them. Many rescuers consider flood water rescue simple and basic. Upon completion of this course, students discovered that the “basic” water rescue is full of difficulty and danger to both victims and rescuers. Merrell outlined the steps to performing a safe and successful water rescue.
Water rescues require specialized personnel, training and equipment. Without all three of these together, our safety as rescuers is compromised. These are rapidly changing incidents that require significant training and planning. Merrell stressed that there is no one way to accomplish a water rescue. Planning requires a back-up plan, as well as a back-up to the back-up plan. For planning water rescues he uses the military acronym PACE:
The learning objectives covered included pre-planning a water rescue incident. This is done through learning the layout of your community and pinpointing high-risk flood areas on or near waterways, as well as those areas in town that lack adequate drainage. Once the water rescue call is dispatched, Merrell stresses the importance of understanding how en route actions can assist with good planning and facilitate an effective initial scene size-up. The initial scene size-up and set-up is crucial to gaining quick control of the incident and setting rescue crews up for success. The learning objectives also included communication issues that arise due to a noisy and stressful environment, as well as night operations.
Merrell discussed the proper way to allocate resources and organize the rescue and rescuers. He covered how to integrate both internal and external resources (mutual/automatic aid) into the rescue. Utilizing these resources, first responders can accomplish the four phases of rescue using the LAST principle:
Merrell then covered the importance of a proper risk/benefit analysis on all water rescue incidents. He stressed that you should not let your heart override a sound decision based on safety of the rescuers and victim(s). Safety is essential for all incidents; our rescue priority is always:
2. Rescue team/crew
This course will assist all first responders, EMS, fire and law enforcement personnel in developing a quick and effective rescue strategy. En route and arrival strategies are the basis for a positive outcome. Lessons learned in this course will allow first responders to recognize hazards and understand that incident pre-planning, training, scene size-up and the immediate actions taken are vital to determining whether a rescue is successful.