NIOSH Offers Flood-Rescue Tips

NIOSH Offers Flood-Rescue Tips

The National Institute for Safety and Health Firefighter Fatality Investigation and Prevention Program has issued a report (No. F2001-02) focusing on a Colorado firefighter’s death while attempting a floodwater rescue. For more details, see the complete report at

On Aug. 17, 2000, a 37-year-old male career firefighter drowned while attempting to rescue a civilian stranded in flood-waters. At about 5 p.m., the civilian was observed holding onto a pole in a pool of water that appeared to be about 3 feet deep. Because of the flooding conditions, it wasn’t obvious to the two responding firefighters that she was standing at the top edge of a 10-foot-deep culvert.

Both firefighters attempted a rescue, but the first to enter the water was quickly pulled under by the undertow. The second aided the first firefighter to safety, then reentered the water to retrieve the civilian. While doing so, the firefighter was pulled under the water, into the culvert and through a large-diameter pipe. For several hours, crews made attempts to rescue and recover the victim. At 10:45 p.m., the victim was found several blocks from the original location of the attempted rescue. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

NIOSH recommended fire departments should:

*Ensure that a proper size-up is conducted before performing any rescues and applicable information is relayed to the officer in charge.

*Ensure that all rescue personnel are provided and wear appropriate PPE when operating at a water incident.

*Ensure that firefighters who could potentially perform a water rescue are trained and use the “Reach, Throw, Row and Go” technique.

*Develop site surveys for existing water hazards.

*Ensure SOPs are developed and used for water rescues.

*Ensure SCBAs are used according to manufacturer’s guidelines.

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