Situational awareness: People at risk – Water

Control Measure Knowledge

Where calls are received from or about people at risk from water, it should be established if it is safer for them to evacuate or to remain where they are until they are rescued, or the incident is resolved.

Several factors may affect the advice that fire control personnel give, including:

  • Type of water, for example:
    • Lake
    • River
    • Flood water
    • Tidal waters
  • Speed and depth of the water
  • Temperature of the water
  • Physical condition of the people, for example if they are suffering from cold water shock or hypothermia
  • Environment people are in, for example:
    • Open water
    • Within a vehicle
    • Within a building
  • Proximity to solid ground
  • Weather forecasts, tide times or river-level forecasts
  • How confident people are with water and their swimming ability
  • Whether people have a flotation aid, such as:
    • A lifejacket
    • A lifebelt
    • A piece of water sports equipment
  • Available water rescue equipment that may be used to assist, including:
    • Life rings and other buoyancy aids
    • Throwlines

Conditions can change rapidly during situations that involve people at risk near water, therefore it is important to continually reassess the situation to ensure that appropriate advice is given.

People may find it difficult to judge the speed and depth of water without putting themselves at risk. However, speed of water can be judged by comparing it to walking speed, and depth can be judged by describing the water level against objects such as a building or a walking stick. Such comparisons should only be used where it is safe for people to do so.

Fire control personnel can use simple questions and people’s responses to them to determine whether the conditions they are experiencing are deteriorating. Example questions include:

  • ‘What has happened to the water/conditions since I last asked you?’
  • ‘Is the water level rising?’
  • ‘Is the water moving faster or slower?’

Fire control personnel can use information about locations affected by tides to assess the risk of tidal waters.

Fire and rescue services should receive notification of weather warnings, tide predictions and river levels from environment agencies, the Met Office, the Rivers Agency, or local water management groups such as the Canal Trust or local drainage board; some information will also be available from the Met Office Hazard Manager. This information should be used to assist in building situational awareness and to identify a change in situation or potential escalation of an incident.

Strategic Actions

Tactical Actions