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Control measure
ARCHIVED - Nominate and position upstream spotters and downstream safety teams

Control measure knowledge

Upstream spotters

Flowing water presents many additional hazards to casualties, rescuers and other watercourse users. In a moving body of water unwanted, hazardous debris and materials such as glass, metal, large objects (rocks, vehicles, etc.) and harmful substances such as sewage and industrial chemicals (flooding) can be washed downstream and into the incident area where rescue operations are underway.

Debris may be on the surface, suspended in the water or rolling along the bottom. It could include trees or, driftwood or it could be man-made. Additionally, rising water levels can be suddenly apparent in rivers during particular times of the year or during a period of inundation and flooding. Any upstream unwanted hazardous debris and materials along with rising water levels should be identified and communicated to rescuers at the earliest opportunity.

Additionally, other watercourse users in slow or fast boats, other fast moving water craft (such as jet skis), floating barges and swimmers or divers may be unaware of the emergency downstream and so may be a significant cause for concern. Moving craft can cause additional hydrological movement, making rescue more difficult as well as becoming an impact hazard to casualties and rescuers.

Early identification and communication with watercourse users can be an essential asset to an incident commander's planned and co-ordinated rescue. In any case, other water-course users should be warned or informed of the emergency events taking place downstream.

Downstream safety teams

Incidents involving moving water are inherently more dangerous for both casualties in need of rescue and for rescuers. Incident commanders will need to quickly assess the scene to decide if downstream safety teams will be required depending on the urgency of the rescue and the available resources.

Where possible and at the earliest opportunity, personnel should be positioned at a suitable downstream site to set up appropriate rescue systems for casualties in need of rescue upstream. Whenever rescue operations are in progress in flowing water, downstream safety teams should be positioned to provide additional safety for crews working in the hot zone. They will need to be equipped and trained to carry out a range of rescue options, which may need to include rescue swimmer capabilities. A priority will be to identify downstream bail-out points that rescuers can fall back to if swept away.

Incident commanders will need to prioritise the effective use of personnel and equipment, particularly when waiting for additional resources to arrive. It may be necessary, for example, to implement either downstream safety teams or upstream spotters according to the outcomes of their dynamic risk assessment.

Strategic actions

Fire and rescue services should:
  • ARCHIVED - Provide information to identify actions for specific bodies of water to inform personnel of the hazards and tactics

  • ARCHIVED - Consider using multi-agency resources via local resilience forums or local government mutual understanding arrangements

  • ARCHIVED - Ensure effective means of communication equipment and strategies are provided to ensure relevant safety information is relayed to relevant responders in sufficient time to take appropriate action

  • ARCHIVED - Develop tactical guidance and support arrangements for the associated hazards and the actions to take to implement procedures for downstream safety teams

Tactical actions

Incident commanders should:
  • ARCHIVED - Take into consideration the structures, buildings and obstacles on each side and the speed of the flowing water in deciding the distances teams need to be positioned upstream or downstream

  • ARCHIVED - Nominate and brief staff, allocate appropriate PPE and communication equipment and position teams on either side of the water course

  • ARCHIVED - Ensure an effective communication strategy is established between teams and the incident commander

  • ARCHIVED - Check and maintain communications once teams are in position

  • ARCHIVED - Consider the available time to set-up an upstream and/or downstream safety systems balanced against hazards and available resources. For example, is there a limited window of opportunity to save life? Refer to the HSE's 'Striking the balance between operational and health and safety duties in the Fire and Rescue Service'

  • ARCHIVED - Designate an appropriate site for upstream and/or downstream safety operations (consider SSRI)

  • ARCHIVED - Consider the hazards between the downstream safety site and the casualty

  • ARCHIVED - Agree or decide on an appropriate or approved upstream/downstream safety system