Hierarchy of risk (Rescue formula)

Control Measure Knowledge

Rescues from water are often high-risk activities and, if possible, entering the water should be avoided. Incident commanders should consider the hierarchy of rescue options available to them and select the most appropriate tactic for any rescue attempt. The options available throughout the hierarchy of risk (Rescue formula) should be supplemented by deploying the most appropriate resources. For more information refer to Deploy adequate personnel and resources: Water search and rescue.

A considered approach needs to be adopted on the immediate need for rescue, the potential for securing or stabilising the people and the time it will take to implement appropriate control measures.

  • Talk/Shout: People are sometimes able to self-extricate or reach a position of relative safety to allow the rescue to be completed. Early verbal contact should always be made with any casualty; this may calm the casualty and allow incident commanders to gather information including whether the casualty is trapped, conscious or able to self-extricate.
  • Reach: Using an object to make physical contact with the people. This may be a tool designed specifically for the purpose or a found object. When selecting a reach tool, personnel should consider that a person’s motor skills and grip strength may be affected by their immersion in water. Where possible buoyant objects should be used; this will aid a casualty if they cannot be recovered immediately. Personnel should avoid making direct physical contact with a casualty where possible, to prevent their own safety from being compromised.
  • Throw: Using specially designed rescue aids or buoyant objects to help retrieve or stabilise a person, such as lifebelts or throwlines.
  • Row: Committing trained personnel on to the water in rescue boats, sleds or similar craft, using the nearest safe launch point.
  • Go: Committing trained personnel into the water to perform a rescue by wading, swimming or other techniques. The need to retrieve committed personnel should be considered and appropriate safety systems implemented.
  • Don’t go: A dynamic risk assessment may identify that it is not possible to perform a rescue until additional control measures have been applied.
  • Helicopter: Use air support to assist search and rescue activities Refer to Search, rescue and casualty care – Aerial resources: Helicopters for search and rescue.

Strategic Actions

Tactical Actions