Safety advice: People at risk – Water

Control Measure Knowledge

Where people at risk are directly affected or at imminent risk from water, then water survival guidance should be provided. However, there are occasions where people may not be directly affected by water, including:

  • People on solid ground who have witnessed people or animals in water
  • People in buildings with water nearby but which is not likely to enter the building imminently

Witnesses who have seen people or animals in water may attempt to enter the water to assist in the incident. People can assist with water incidents in various ways, including relaying evacuation advice to callers and assisting in their rescue as detailed in water survival guidance. However, people helping should be advised to stay out of the water and away from unguarded edges and banks that might collapse.

Stay warm

To protect people who have been able to exit the water from hypothermia it is important that medical advice is sought. The effects of hypothermia can be prevented or managed by taking the following actions:

  • Moving people indoors or somewhere sheltered as quickly as possible
  • Replacing any wet clothes with dry clothes if possible
  • Protecting casualties that cannot be moved indoors by providing some insulation for them to lie or sit on
  • Wrapping the casualty in a blanket, sleeping bag, dry towel or similar, making sure their head is covered
  • Giving them a warm non-alcoholic drink and some high-energy food
  • Do not apply direct heat to the casualty to warm them up, with a hot water bottle for example as this may damage the skin or cause an irregular heartbeat
  • Do not massage or rub the person as vigorous or jarring movements may trigger cardiac arrest

It is important to maintain contact with people at risk during all calls where possible, however it is vital if a person is potentially suffering from hypothermia. People suffering from hypothermia may feel tired and lose consciousness; engaging them in conversation or asking questions may assist in keeping them awake until emergency resources arrive.

Wide area flooding

Where flooding has affected a large area, it is likely that calls will be received from people who are concerned that water is approaching their property. People should be advised on the steps to take to protect their building and belongings, including:

  • Using sandbags to protect their property:
    • Sandbags may be provided by local councils; callers are likely to be required to contact their local council to request sandbags
    • Pillowcases or refuse sacks filled with soil can be a home-made alternative where sandbags are not available
  • Moving possessions to higher levels within their property

The following are examples of public online and telephone services that provide advice on the actions people should take to prepare for floods, as well as information on current flood warning levels in the area:

If water has started to enter the building or the building has been surrounded and there is imminent danger that the water will enter, then the advice in water survival guidance should be followed.

Strategic Actions

Tactical Actions