Steps to a Swimming Rescue

  1. Assessment: if swimming rescue is necessary.
  2. Equipment: find a rescue aid or floatation device (PFD).
  3. Entry: based on the topography; diving is not recommended.
  4. Approach: keep eyes on the victim.
  5. Ready Position: stop to reevaluate when 6-10 feet away.
  6. Assist: determine how to rescue.
  7. Landing: direct or assist victim.
  8. After Care: verify that emergency services have been activated; CPR (if needed).

Steps 1, 2, and 5

Planning: Quickly assess the situation – time is short.

  1. Has anyone called for help?
  2. Is anyone attempting a swimming rescue?
  3. Is it possible to wade out unconscious victim?
  4. Are any rescue aids available (nearby)?
  5. Does the victim have any injuries?

Steps 3 & 4

Entry and Approach: Same as non-conscious rescue entries and approaches.

  1. Entry is based on the terrain.
  2. Approach is based on the distance.
  3. Verify victim is unconscious by splashing water on the victim.\

Step 5


  1. Armpit tow: rear approach.
  2. Wrist tow: front approach.
  3. Cross-chest tow: victim is struggling to breathe in air.

Step 7


  1. Beach drag- water supports victim’s weight: arms under victim’s armpit.
  2. Vertical lift- best if two people are on shore or deck.

Step 8

After Care:

  1. Make sure emergencies have been called.
  2. Check vertical signs.
  3. Preform CPR (if needed).
  4. Place victim in recovery position if victim gains conscience.
  5. Wait for emergencies personnel.

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