Swiftwater Rescue Awareness (NFPA)

Mother nature will kill you first chance she gets, and one of her best tools to do so is with water. Drowning is widely regarded as the #1 nature related cause of death World Wide. (Katrina, Asia Tsunami’s etc.) Water is powerful, and relentless. Fortunately, it is also predictable.

On a calm, good day it’s a beautiful and refreshing geographic feature we all enjoy, but within seconds it can turn into a brutal, violent killer. Recognizing before water becomes deadly, or recognizing WHERE it’s deadly is vital to preventing loss of life. (Most urban Swiftwater Rescue teams have identified hazards in their area, and have gear ready and staged for when the water starts to rise. This has resulted in several lives saved which formerly would have been likely recoveries.)

Swiftwater Statistics

Beyond prevention and recognition, knowledge is also vitally important in order to develop a sense of ‘r2C5D1CA400000578-3235487-image-m-6_1442425466839espect’ for water.  (Or Fear.)  For instance –

  • 12 inches of water, moving at 4mph will generate 520lbs of force.
  • 24 inches of water can move the biggest SUVs on the market.
  • 6″ of water can stall your vehicle. This is important to know as the majority of folks that perish during Flash Floods die in a vehicle.

Swiftwater rescue is beyond time sensitive, the best chance people have is proper prevention – either by themselves, or someone in their immediate area or group.  Recognizing the dangers and stopping people from going in the water in the first place saves lives.

So how do you know what to look for or when water is dangerous?

“80% of Swiftwater Rescue is not even going in the water.”


flood_rescueFortunately, even if you’re not a rescue person, Swiftwater Awareness can can and should learned by everyone. From danger recognition, to prevention, to even low-risk maneuvers; one can get a firm grasp on Swiftwater in the span of an afternoon. Best of all, you don’t even have to get wet. In fact, as an Awareness level candidate, you’re not supposed to even be in the water. Hell, even as a technician you don’t want to be in the water. As I say when I teach, “80% of Swiftwater Rescue is not even going in the water.”

Specialized-Rescue just produced an 8 hour Online Video course that covers all aspect of water hazards and Swiftwater Rescue operations. Although catered towards agency rescue folk, the information presented is extremely straight-forward for parents, civilians or anyone who wants to learn more. (Note – I am affiliated with and teach for Specialized Rescue, but the bias is well justified. The awareness course is beyond great.)

The information is mostly presented via higunnamedh-res drone footage of water hazards, Swiftwater Rescue classes and actual water rescues and incidents. The narration is crystal clear and the annotated videos definitely make it easy to learn the concept, feature or technique being presented. I definitely wish I had this resource available when I first learned!

It covers all aspects of water hazards, from prevention to mitigation to self rescue and beyond.

Here is an example of one of the chapters.

The Swiftwater Awareness course typically takes 8 hours, however you work at your own pace. There is no time duration for when your access expires, once you register, you have access to the course material and videos FOREVER. I suggest you show the material to your friends, family and people you care about. Get them interested in what water can do and spread the knowledge.

For my agency / rescue folks, the course completion does come with an NFPA Awareness rating under Specialized-Rescue, Inc.

Sign up for an account on the Specialized-Rescue.com site, and take the Swiftwater Awareness course.  Stay dry, stay alive – go time.