Because Seattle is surrounded by water, the Seattle Fire Department is frequently called to respond to emergencies in lakes, rivers, and the sea. Water rescues are challenging, especially when a person in distress submerges before help arrives. Beachgoers and boaters can greatly aid firefighters by paying attention and taking notes in the unfortunate event that someone goes under water and does not surface.
Here are a few ways to assist during a water rescue from land:
- Don’t wait – dial 911 right away to get help on the way.
- Stay in your exact location and find an object across the water from where the person went under (house, large tree, etc.). This is known as triangulation and should be done by all witnesses.
- When firefighters or police officers arrive on the scene, wave at them to get their attention.
- Provide any information you have about the person, such as their hair color or what they were wearing.
- Don’t get in the way of the response; instead, provide the information and then let the first responders do their jobs.
If you’re on a boat, here’s how you can help:
- Don’t go in after the person.
- Toss something to the person in the water, such as a rope, lifeline, or life jacket.
- Find a fixed object on the horizon to use as a reference point in case the person drowns, so you can tell firefighters where they were last seen.
- If you’re out on the water, keep track of your location in case 911 is needed.
Share latitude and longitude coordinates with the dispatcher using a compass (found on many smart phones), which will assist first responders in locating the location on the water.
Being aware of the situation can go a long way toward assisting someone who is in need. When out on the water this summer, please use caution and always wear a life jacket.
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