Protect people at risk: Water survival guidance for people in moving water

Control Measure Knowledge

This control measure should be read in conjunction with:

People who are currently static and buoyant in the water are likely to be able to remain in that location until they are rescued. If people are forced into the moving water, it is possible they will be swept away with the current.

People will have difficulty swimming against the strong currents in fast flowing water and should be safer to float with the flow of the water. Before advising people to float with the flow of the water, consideration should be given to any upcoming obstructions or hazards, such as weirs.

Avoid obstructions and entanglement

When floating, people should face the direction of travel, with their feet and legs raised to the surface. This will allow them to see upcoming obstructions, prevent their feet and legs becoming entangled and protect their head by allowing their feet to hit any obstructions first. When floating, people should try to use their arms to direct themselves.

Head towards a safer location

People should attempt to reach areas where they will be static until they can be rescued, such as:

  • High ground or solid ground, for example rocks in a river
  • Shallow water
  • Slow flowing water

Water naturally flows in a straight line and should lead people to bends in the water. Water on the inside of bends should be shallower and slower flowing; this may allow people to exit the water or remain static until rescue.

People should avoid aiming towards items which may act as siphons or strainers, such as partially submerged trees or bushes.

Depending on their swimming ability, once people have reached slower flowing water, they may be able to reach a safer location by swimming.


If people are in slow moving water or they are no longer safe to float due to upcoming hazards, people may be required to swim to a safer location.

When swimming in moving water, people should swim diagonally with the flow of the current.

Before providing any advice to swim, consideration should be given to the person’s swimming ability, and consideration as to whether the person has been in the water for some time and may be suffering from cold water shock or hypothermia.

Strategic Actions

Tactical Actions