Evacuation guidance: People at risk – Water

Control Measure Knowledge

This control measure should be read in conjunction with Evacuation guidance: People at risk


Calls may be received from or about people at risk from water from people who have witnessed the incident and are not in the water. In these situations, fire control personnel should give advice to the caller to pass on to the people at risk who are in or near the water.

Due to the risks associated with water, people at risk should not be advised to enter deep, fast-flowing, or large areas of water. Any exposure to water should be kept to a minimum. The safest way to exit from water is to wade to a safe place where possible. The following advice should assist people in wading:

  • Only wade through moving water that is ankle-deep or less, or still water that is less than knee-deep
  • Only wade through water that is moving at or slower than walking speed
  • If possible, use a stick or similar object to assist wading by:
    • Testing the depth of water
    • Checking for any obstructions
    • Locating stable areas to place feet
  • Move one foot at a time, making sure one foot is stable before moving the other
  • If using a stick or similar object, ensure there are two points of contact with the ground at all times
  • Move slowly, ensuring that feet are approximately shoulder width apart to allow the water to flow between the legs
  • Advise multiple people in the water to wade together:
    • Two people should wade one behind the other, the person at the back holding on to the waist of the person in front
    • Three or more people should form a wedge or triangular shape when wading through water
  • Do not wade through large expanses of water
  • Only wade through water when a place of safety and safe means of exiting the water are visible
  • If at any point the water becomes unsafe and people are required to turn back, they should turn their body downstream when changing direction

Due to the hazards and risks associated with water, if people cannot exit the water using the methods above, then it is likely that fire control personnel will be required to provide them with water survival guidance as detailed within the survival guidance document on methods to keep themselves safe.

There may be circumstances where people at risk who are not in the water at the time of the call may be in a place where they are safe to remain until they are rescued. This may include people on high ground who have become surrounded by water.

If people at risk are inside a property and are required to evacuate via a window due to flooding, fire control personnel should consider advising them to take extra precautions, such as using life jackets if available or removing heavy clothing and footwear if they will be dropping into water. Fire control personnel may need to give people water survival guidance before they drop into water.

Strategic Actions

Tactical Actions