Zoned Approach Swift Water Rescue Program

Topics: Risk Management

Cold Zone: This is the area for personnel trained at the awareness level. These people may not approach the warm zone and definitely not the the hot zone. Personnel in this area must appreciate the dangers of other zones but have not undergone the rigorous training to operate in those zones. Example of people that may be in the cold zone would be having Mercy Flights stage in the area. Please note that if people are in the cold zone they still need to have appropriate PPE.

Warm Zone: This area moves inland, and in generally comprised of the shoreline area within 10’ of the water. There is significant chance that personnel in this area may accidently slip and fall into the water; therefore they must be properly equipped and trained to deal with this possibility, which generally correspond to Operational level training. If necessary, this zone can be extended further from the water’s edge to compensate for difficult terrain such as slopes or uneven ground.

Hot Zone: The hot zone is the area covered by water. This is often the greatest hazard, and must be approached only by people capable of working safely in that environment, essentially those trained to the Technician level. Rescues will be performed by a variety of methods and the personnel operating in this zone must be properly trained and equipped for this situation.

Low to High Risk Options: All rescue operations will be set up utilizing the lowest risk options first, while setting up progressively higher risk options as the next alternative.

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Priorities: All personnel involved in a rescue operation will be prepared to: 1. Rescue themselves as their first priority. 2. Back each other up and rescue each other as their second priority. 3. Rescue the victim(s) as their third priority

Rescue vs. Recovery: An operational limitation defining one (1) hour as the accepted time limit for transition from a “rescue” effort to a “recovery” effort is prudent in most cases, with a few exceptions. This standard typically applies to incidents involving drowning or engulfment where the victim’s exact position is known and the chance of survival is minimal or non-existent if the victim is not rescued within minutes. Other circumstances where a “rescue vs. recovery” transition would become necessary might involve the death of a victim while a rescue effort is underway. The death of a victim prior to rescue requires an operational shift from a rescue mode to a more conservative recovery mode

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Zoned Approach Swift Water Rescue Program. (2022, May 07). Retrieved from

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