a very basic concept, "Reaching" is often overlooked as a
practical means of effecting a rescue. In swift water, reaching is often
complicated by the sides of the water channel and the eddy currents that
are typically located in this region. An outreached arm can be used to
grab a limb of a subject in any type of water. In swift water, the rescuer
must anticipate the force and prepare for the jolt that will occur when a
subject is grabbed. Belay lines or additional rescuers should be available
to secure the rescuer and prevent him from being pulled into the channel.
Reaching with an arm is limited to areas of minimal flow (i.e.
where a subject may be caught in a eddy but may be too week to
escape.) The reach may be
extended by using one leg or a handy tree branch.
much safer approach than using a rescuers limb, is the use of the
shepherd's crook. This tool is typically used in large community pools.
The shepherd's crook can extend the reaching rescue upwards to 12 feet.
The large "Hook" should be placed under the water surface and
brought up under the subject's auxiliaries. Moving water will help to keep
the subject inside the crook. When the subject is secured a pendulum
motion should be used to pull the subject to safety. All rescue efforts
should stay in force until the subject is well within a safety zone. The
shepherd's crook can be used as an adjunct to a throw line where added
help is needed to move the subject through the eddy currents near the
sides of the channel.
throwing a rope bag or a coiled line, the objective is to throw over or
past the subjects shoulder so it will be obvious he should grab the rope.
In swiftwater it is best to lead the subject somewhat on the downstream
side. In still water the subject is rescued by pulling to retrieve the
swiftwater applications, after the subject has grabbed the throw line, the
force of the current is used to pendulum the subject to the side of the
waterway. A dynamic body belay should be used to "gradually apply the
brakes." This gives the
subject the best chance or maintaining a grasp on the line as the
deceleration will occur over a longer period of time (less force). This is
depicted in the figure above. A second line may be needed to pull the subject
through the helical water flow that may occur near the waterway's edge as
is shown in figure 14. Rescuers with throw bags or rope coils must place
themselves in such a way that the subject does not swing into another
hazard (a tree, a drainpipe, a waterfall etc.). Also the rescuer must
prepare for the force of the water pulling on the subject. For this reason
the rescuer must be planted on a firm surface a safe distance from the
waterway so that a jolt of the rope does not pull the rescuer into the
water. A second rescuer to hold the first rescuer or a safety line
attached to a secure anchor may be in order.
a rescue attempt multiple throw bag stations should be available to
increase the overall probability of success. Also if a bad throw occurs
(whether from a coil or a throw bag) quickly coil the rope into a large
coil and reposition for another throw attempt. Keep throwing until the
rescue is successful or the subject has moved out of range.
life ring is another rescue throwing device that is often used as an un-tethered float in still water. The throwing ring is often found on ship
decks, piers, and boat docks where falls into the open water are possible.
The ring is easy to grab which help the subject and the thrower. The life
ring is thrown side arm with the ring in a horizontal position. The weight
of the ring and the "Frisbee" effect of the flat surface help
the life ring travel further than a throw bag or coiled line would. In
swiftwater, the life ring is tossed with a rope tether which allows the
ring to be retrieved for retries and allows the subject to be rescued if
he does reach the ring. The major benefits of the tethered life ring is
that the subject has a large item to see and grab. Also once the subject
grabs the life ring he receives the added buoyancy of the ring itself.
carry-over from basic lifesaving, is to throw anything that floats.)
(Also sometimes quoted as: "Throw everything - something
will float!") In still
water, a floating object provides the subject an aid to keep himself
afloat until the subject can make his own way to safety or further
assistance can be rendered or located. In moving water, anything that is
thrown must land within reach of the subject.
reaching and throwing can not (or have not) provided a successful
extrication, the next choice is to use some type of water craft to extract
the subject. The two water crafts used by the team are a inflatable raft
and the simple boogie board. The boogie board is used as a special option
to a Zip line. Although the raft can be used with its oars in still water
or lake rescues, the raft is relegated to tethered operations only in
rescuer operating in the raft shall be fully equipped as a swimmer. A
green cylume and a beacon shall be both engaged when near or in the water.
Any and all rescuers operating in the raft shall be connected to the raft
with some type of belay device that can be disconnected by the rescuer if
needed. (Quick eject harness, etc.) The
rescuer shall keep his weight as low within the raft as is possible to
minimize to probability of being ejected from the raft. The rescuer must
be aware of debris floating and banging into the bottom of the raft. The
raft can easily be torn from the bottom. The rescuer should stoop on his
feet rather than sit on the bottom of the raft to reduce harm when
obstacles are struck.
number of rescuers operating in the raft for a rescue shall be minimized
(in general the number of rescuers in or close to the water shall be
minimized). If possible the raft can be used with no rescuers if
sufficient directions can be given to the subject. (i.e. A subject stranded
on the top of his vehicle in the middle of a waterway who is not panicking
can be instructed to sit on the raft floor and put on the life jacket that
is tethered to the raft.)
approaching a subject stranded on an island (any surface that is not
submerged) the rescuer must instruct the subject to not do anything until
he is not told to do so. As in a cliff hanger rescue, directions must be
stern and clear. A loud clear voice may be needed to be heard above the
roar of the swiftwater. The rescuer must be ready for the subject to panic
and to begin thrashing at the raft and the rescuer in a drastic attempt to
save himself. Once stern instructions are given, the raft should be
positioned to provide a safe approach. In general this will be upstream
and to the side of any island. The rescuer and raft should never be placed
downstream of a obstacle that can loosen and become free. (i.e. A vehicle
that appears well stuck may float and tear through the raft once the
subject jumps from the roof of the vehicle into the raft if the raft is
downstream of the "stuck" vehicle.) An approach from
directly upstream could place the rescuer in danger of entrapment if he is
ejected from the raft.
general rules for a reaching type rescue apply to "reaching out and
grabbing" a subject from the raft. Of course there is more involved
in positioning the raft through communications with the systems people on
shore, but "grabbing" the subject is similar. One must be very
forceful when grabbing the subject. Be ready for a possible panic response
where the subject attempts to "climb" the rescuer in an attempt
to escape the waterway. If possible secure the subject by grabbing across
the chest similar to the cross chest carry in lifesaving. After the
subject is secure and the rescuer is sure he is not going to panic,
further plans can be made for moving the subject into the raft. Remember
at worst case the raft can be pulled back to shore with the rescuer
holding the subject in the cross chest carry position.
the subject is cooperative, one can use his skills to enter the raft.
However the rescuer should never release physical contact with the subject
until he is within the raft and secured into a tethered life vest. If the
subject is panic stricken or is to heavy to handle, the raft should be
brought in with the rescuer supporting the subject's head out of the water
as best as possible. If possible an unconscious subject should also be
returned in this way to minimize the rough handling (the trip in the water
is still very rough). If it is decided to pull the subject into the raft
(needed when multiple subjects are encountered), dunking the subject just
prior to pulling them over the raft wall will help lift the subject from
the water by maximizing the initial buoyancy. Follow up by grabbing
anything and pull the subject into the raft. It will not normally be
glamorous but well accepted.
times there may be a reason why the raft cannot be immediately retrieved:
systems complication, moving debris, interference with another rescue, the
raft is hung up on something. CPR, rescue breathing, or other life saving
treatment should not be delayed waiting for the raft to reach shore.
Although not in ideal conditions the best attempt to provide the most
critical care must be given. The OL will use the criticality of the
subject to aid in his planning and decision making process so advise him
of patient status as soon as is practical.
a final rule, minimize the time the raft and rescuer are exposed to the
waterway. Do not place the rescuer out in the water if the subject is
known to be 20 minutes away.
basic water rescue techniques are not by themselves sufficient, it will
become necessary to extend the rescue using some type of roped rescue
system. This may be a simple Zip line, a directional control line for a
raft operating downstream (Simplified Flying Crane), a tyrolean, a haul or
a belay system. The main advantage of a mountain SAR team is that the same
systems used for ground rescue are applicable to water rescue. Considering
that the goal in swiftwater is to keep the rescuer out of the water,
experience and speed in operating rope systems will increase the
probability of success and help maintain the safety of the rescuers.
Zip line is created by stringing a rope across a waterway with a 30 to 45
degree angle with respect to the main flow of the waterway as is shown in
figure above. If the Zip line is to be used as self help line or rescuer
safety line, then the rope should be held taught approximately 1 foot
above the normal flow height of the waterway. This height may be hard to
judge if the water is choppy with a variance in height of several feet.
Cylumes should be used to mark the two side of the Zip line.
the Zip line is intended as a passive line to capture the subject in the
water than the rope should be somewhat slack and allowed to ride the
surface as is shown in the figure above. In both cases once the rope is grabbed,
the current will force the subject toward the downstream side of the zip
lines. Members that are equipped with PFDs that have a tag line with a
biner to attach themselves to the zip line so that it is not necessary for
them to hold on with their hands.
the zip line is being used as an attempt to passively snag a subject in
the water (ie no rescuer is in the water, hoping the subject will follow
the zip line toward the downstream shore), the success lies on the
subject's ability to stay with the zip line all the way close to the
downstream edge. One may treat the passive zip line as a technique to move
a subject from the center of a channel to an area near the edge where a
reaching rescue may be applicable. Rescuers staged near the downstream
edge should be ready to reach, use throw bags, use the shepherd's crook or
any other system that is applicable if the subject even comes close to the
increase the success of a rescue site, several zip line should be
constructed in a serial fashion as is shown in the figure above. In this way if
the first line moves the subject half way, the secondary system only needs
to move him the other half. A passive zip line is useful if no swimmers
are available or the waterway is extremely hazardous with plenty of
debris. (Debris may damage or break the line but debris will typically be
pulled over or above the line.)
more efficient and practical use of the zip line is to use the line with a
tender. In this case the zip line is kept taut and above the average
surface of the water (12 to 18 inches).
A rescue swimmer with a short tender line clips into the zip line
with a biner. As the subject approaches, the swimmer enters the waterway
and propels himself along the zip line to hopefully intersect the subject.
Once the subject is encountered (grabbed as securely as possible — cross
chest is preferred but not always available), the swimmer and the subject
will be forced along the zip line by the current to the downstream side.
Wading rescuers or additional throw lines may be need to assist in the
exit from the waterway. The figure above demonstrates the use of the tethered zip
waves and white water are high, a helpful aid is the boogie board. In this
case a boogie board is also clipped into the zip line (on it own separate
tender line NOT THE
RESCUER'S). The rescuer can ride the boogie board over waves and white
water which will allow the rescuer to keep visual contact with the subject
during the approach. Loss of visual contact during an approach due to
tumultuous water is often a cause of a failed rescue attempt. (In basic
lifesaving during water approaches swimming is done with the head out of
the water to allow the rescuer to maintain visual contact during the
approach.) If the subject is
pulled underwater the rescuer can make an estimate of the passing time so
he can dive or reach down in an attempt to grab the subject. The rescuer
may elect to abandon the boogie board to effect the rescue or to remain
with the board for added protection. If the boogie board is abandoned, the
board on its tether will follow the rescuer to the downstream side under
the power of the current.
fins play an important role in the tender of the zip line. If the path of
the subject is misjudged it may be necessary for the rescuer to swim
towards the upstream anchor. If necessary he can pull himself along the
zip line if needed. It is possible to have several rescue swimmers on the
zip line at the same time to increase the odds of success. But as is the
case with multiple tenders on a high angle evacuation the confusion and
interaction between the rescuers also complicates the operation. The fact
that rescuers are exposed in the water channel makes this a risky
operation. Contraindications to this type of rescue would be excessive
debris. Zip lines should be created in areas where the flow of the channel
variant of the zip line is the Firehose Line. In this case the zip line
rope is replace with a 50 foot section of Firehose that is fitted with a
special pressure fitting which allows the hose to be inflated from a SCUBA
tank. When the hose is supported on both sides by tenders it forms a
floating barrier that can be more easily held by a subject whose grip has
been reduced due to cold water exposure. Once the hose is grabbed the
subject can pull himself along the hose to safety.
advantage of the firehose line is that it can be used as a floating aid to
a reaching rescue. The Firehose line can be inflated and floated out to a
subject stuck in a hydraulic below a low head dam which would allow him to
be pulled to safety. The team does not carry equipment to support the
firehose line but the county truck does carry this resource. The main
disadvantage of the firehose line is that it is not very portable and is
bulky to operate.
available, a raft that can be inserted into the waterway and controlled
from shore via tether lines provides a safer and more efficient system
than the zip line. The raft is a small 9 ft sport craft that is easily
inflated with hand pumps in less than 3 minutes. Once inflated the
raft may be transported easily by a few rescuers. The raft is normally
stored deflated, in a bag which contains
the oars, the wooden floor boards, and one inflation pump. The raft has
biners and webbing secured all around to all attachment points. The raft
can be transported between rescue sites in the inflated position by
placing it inverted on the top of a vehicle (be careful of damaging
raft is typically tethered in one of three configurations:
With 2 lines, with 4 lines, or with a taut line crane (similar to
the flying crane used in tyroleans).
two line tether may be used for simple narrow waterways with predictable
and stable water flow. The tender lines are typically manned by land
rescuer performing a body belay on the tether line. Multiple rescuers on
each tether can also be used if warranted. A four line tether is used when
the current is unstable or precise articulation of the raft is required to
approach an island such as a stuck vehicle or a swamped water vessel. Be
aware that the four tether lines do restrict the tender's ability to reach
in the water.
of these approaches assume that the edges of the waterway are available
for use by the line tenders. Often times the edges are covered with
foliage or other obstacles such as wall or inlets. If the edges are not
available then the raft may be controlled in a "horizontal flying
crane" which is depicted in detail in the figure below. In this case a
single taut line is connected close to the surface of the water. (the only
contraindication to using the standard two tyrolean line approach is the
time required to establish the system)
transport system of one line to each side is established to control the
position of the tyrolean plate. A single line is attached to the raft,
through a change of direction element at the tyrolean plate and is then
fed back to a lower system (this may be a body belay if this is thought to
be sufficient.) The raft is
then positioned river left or right based on the position of the tyrolean
plate. The tender typically uses hand signals to the tenders to control
the raft position. The location of the raft with respect to the tyrolean
plate (downstream position) is regulated by the single lowering line.
the raft is properly positioned for the rescue, the lower line can be
connected to a haul system and the raft can be pulled back upstream. Be
aware that if the raft takes on water the force needed to haul the raft
upstream (or to retard its downstream flow) may be excessive requiring at
least a 3:1 haul system and several rescuers to haul. The process still
works with a submerged raft.
raft rescues require competent coordination. A technique must be
established for the raft tender to properly request positioning of the
raft. A land based Operations Leader should be assigned to control the positioning. Hand
signals may be necessary if radio or voice communication cannot be
applicable a standard tyrolean can be utilized to extract a subject
stranded on islands when time will allow the tyrolean to be constructed.
In this case one can understand how teamwork will play an important role
and practice in tyrolean construction and operation will become very
important. If the subject can maintain his position without exposing
himself to danger, the best system will be the standard tyrolean. In this
case the rescuer is held above the waterway remaining out of the water
completely. This would be an excellent system for evacuating the subjects
stranded in a vehicle in a waterway when the vehicle is stuck but not
submerged (some anchor lines may be needed to secure the vehicle first).
dive team and some SAR members have received special instruction in the
use of the short line static fly-away (similar in effect to the
mountaineering static fly-away evacuation with a tender.)
In this case a single (high reliability) static line is attached to
the main top anchor within the airship. A rescuer, fully suited as a
swimmer is attached at the opposite end of the rope through a sit and
chest harness. Also attached to the end of the rope is a pre-rig
attachment that is attached to a life ring. When needed the airship flies
(as low to the ground as is practical) with the rescuer tethered beneath
the airship. Using hand signals to the crew chief above, the rescue guides
the airship toward the subject in need of rescue. When next to the subject
the rescue grabs him and forces the life ring over the subjects shoulders.
When given the signal to haul away, the airship lifts, the strap inside
the life ring tightens, and the rescuer and the subject are flown out of
danger. Once airborne, to provide extra security, the rescuer wraps his
legs and arms around the subject. This is very similar to the military
horse collar rescue fly away system.