Reality Training: Paramedics rescue stranded motorists

Are you equipped and trained to carry out a life-saving water rescue without compromising your own life?

Incident Date: April 21, 2015

Department: NSW Ambulance, New South Wales (Australia)

What happened: Paramedics rescued two people from the roof of a submerged vehicle moments before the vehicle was swept away by rushing floodwaters. The flood occurred when the Paterson River burst it’s banks.

The paramedics, Jason Watson and Dan O’Shannessy, paddled through fast-moving water in an inflatable rescue boat to reach the pair who had climbed on top of their car and were visibly shivering. After making the rescue the paramedics paddled against the wind and river current to return the patients to shore.

Read the more about the incident and watch the video below.

Discussion points: water rescue hazards, patient assessment, and treatment

As you watch the video ask yourself or discuss with your partner, company, or squad the following questions:

  1. Do you have the equipment and training to execute a water rescue like this? If yes, what are the specific risks present in this incident and how are those risks mitigated? If no, what is your local protocol for requesting water rescue resources and what will you do to prepare for the arrival of those resources?
  2. What are characteristics of flash flooding and water rescue that make it especially dangerous to civilians and emergency responders?
  3. After prolonged cold-water immersion what are your anticipated problems for the patients? How will you assess for and treat those problems?
  4. What type of rehab and monitoring may be required for the paramedics after the rescue is completed?
  5. What are conditions or changes in conditions that would make this rescue attempt a “no-go” or cause you to abort the rescue attempt?

With water rescue comes significant risk to the victims and the emergency responders. A rescue squad member died in the line of duty from injuries sustained when the rescue boat she was in capsized in an Alabama river during a search for a kayaker. Your recognition of the risks involved in water rescue is critical to your ability to carry out a life-saving rescue without compromising your own life.

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