Moving water is a powerful force that is almost impossible to withstand. When floodwaters rush into an area, they carry away houses and vehicles…and people. You can't rescue houses and vehicles, but sometimes it's possible to rescue the people who are trapped by the water. Many times, victims are able to crawl up into a tree, onto a boulder or some other stationary object while the rushing water swirls around them. This is where a water rescue is possible.
Before attempting to rescue someone who is trapped in a river or the rising waters of a flood, make sure you aren’t going to end up in the water yourself. There is nothing to be gained by plunging into the water in an heroic effort to save the victim. If you wind up in the water, you make the whole situation worse. Now there are two victims instead of just one for other rescuers to deal with. Here's the proper procedure:
- Put yourself in a stable position and secure yourself in a way that you won’t get pulled into the flow. You might do this by lashing yourself to an immovable object that is firmly anchored on dry ground — a tree, a vehicle, or to other rescuers who can serve as a backup human anchor system.
- Coil a rescue rope, securing the tail of the line (called the bitter end) to something solid so if it is pulled out of your hands you don't lose the whole thing.
- Stand on the upstream side of the rope, so it doesn't sweep into you as it is carried by the current.
- Throw the coil of rope upstream of the victim, allowing the line to be carried by the current to the victim. You might have to retrieve the line, recoil it and try again and again before you figure out how to use the current to your advantage.
- When you successfully get the rope to the victim, take a wrap of the rescue rope around a tree or other solid object to anchor it firmly against the weight of the victim and the immense pressure of flowing water.
- Instruct the victim to tie the rope around the waist. If there’s a flotation ring or loop in the end of the rope, have the victim place it over his/her head and upper body and under the arms.
- When everything is secure, the victim can be pulled to safety. The rope will act as a pendulum to swing the victim toward the shore downstream of where you are standing.