Floodwater Rescue Considerations

Water rescue incidents that occur in suburban and urban communities present challenges that may not always be present when responding to incidents on rivers and other large bodies of water. In this post, we will discuss some special considerations when responding to floodwater incidents.

Differential Pressures

This is the hazard that scares me the most because first responders have been killed and injured by it before. Differential pressure occurs whenever two bodies of water are equalizing. I have written about differential pressure numerous times before by analyzing various LODD case studies. Take a few minutes and read about them at the links below.

Floodwater LODD: Lessons Learned

Lessons Learned from a Water Rescue LODD


Floodwater that ravages our communities will bring hazardous materials along with it. Think about the fuels and pesticides that people have in their sheds and garages. Bulk chemical storage systems at can be compromised during storm events. Sewer systems can also become inundated and spew large quantities of sewage out into the floodwater. These are just a few examples of how floodwater becomes contaminated.

The best protection from hazardous materials contamination is by avoiding it. If that is not possible, wear proper water rescue PPE which includes dry suits. Dry suits help keep the water away from your body, minimizing your potential exposure to hazardous materials. Just remember, dry suits are not actually certified chemical protective clothing and it is still possible to become contaminated even in the water rescue environment.

Widespread Effects

Typically, when there is flooding in one jurisdiction, it is likely also happening in a nearby jurisdiction due to storm activity. Normal mutual aid resources may not be available, so your agency may have to wait longer than usual for assistance or you may be working with a water rescue team that you have never met or trained with before.

Additionally, since flooding events can be so widespread, it may present itself in different ways. Some agencies will primarily respond to flooded intersections inundated by surface water (non-moving water). Other agencies will have areas of swift water (moving water) that develop with victims trapped or pinned by the power of the moving water.

If you are interested in learning more about floodwater response, we offer Flood Rescue Awareness (3 hours) and Flood Rescue Skills Development (12 hours) programs. Contact us to set up a class for your agency.

Bill Elder
Owner / Lead Instructor
Elder Technical Rescue Services, LLC

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