Water Rescue Equipment

Instructor: Danielle Haak

Danielle has a PhD in Natural Resource Sciences and a MSc in Biological Sciences

Learning basic water rescue methods and equipment is important for anyone who spends time near water. In this lesson, we'll look at the most commonly used water rescue equipment and when to use it.

Water Rescue Rules

Knowing what to do in a water-related emergency isn't just for lifeguards to worry about. You never know if you'll be in a situation where you need to think quickly and find a way to help a distressed person out of a pool, lake, or ocean.

The first rule of water safety is to wear a personal flotation device (PFD) (sometimes called a life jacket) whenever possible. These are jackets made of material to keep you afloat. They may not be the most fashionable clothing choice, but they can help keep you alive, especially if you aren't a strong swimmer.

Personal flotation devices come in all shapes and sizes.
personal flotation device

However, if a person is in the water either without a PFD or in need of additional help, there is one key phrase to file away in your memory: Reach, Throw, Row, Don't Go. This phrase encapsulates one of the most important factors of a water rescue, especially for the non-lifeguards among us: avoid putting yourself in danger when trying to rescue a panicking person from the water. You may end up getting pushed under water yourself, resulting in two victims in need of help instead of one.

Water Rescue Equipment

Let's break apart our new favorite phrase.

  • Reach: If you can extend an object to reach someone, try to get the person to grab it in order to be pulled towards you. In an emergency, almost anything will do, but there are two devices made especially for water rescue. First is an aptly named reaching pole. These are made of lightweight material and stretch 10-15 feet in length. If the victim is conscious, you can extend the reaching pole to be grabbed. Another device is called a shepherd's crook. This is similar to the reaching pole except that the end you extend is curved and can be used to help guide a person toward you to safety.
  • Throw: If you can't physically reach the victim with an object, there are a number of devices you can throw to the person to help. The most basic is a throwline or rope. Often, the rope is coiled in a bag to produce momentum when you throw it. As the rope extends, it uncoils from the bag, and if your aim is good, the person can grab on and be pulled or towed to shore. A rope might also be tied to a rescue buoy or rescue ring. These are commonly found near swimming pools and are just different variations of a lightweight, floating device that a person can hold in order to help stay above water. The victim grabs the device and can then be pulled to safety.

Rescue rings can be thrown to a victim in the water.
Rescue ring

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