Dangers of Rising Floodwaters

Flood water rescue is not an easy subject to discuss due to so many variations of risk and locale. If you are a citizen and find yourself in a hurricane or torrential downpour, you have to take care of your personal safety first.

The dangers of rising floodwaters are as varied as the location and surrounding surface objects, vegetation and waterways.

In floodwaters there is not one way to say how a rescue can be performed. Self rescue has tended to be improvised by those in distress by the direct situation, many more positive ones are executed than tragic but its better to prepare in your mind now, instead of just winging if it ever occurs to you.

Rescue may not come to you immediately or for days, there is no rationale for this, its all subjective to the precise incident.

Oftentimes it depends upon the assets and training of Responders and their staging areas. Most will not be deployed if the risks could take their lives. This can also go for nightfall or hazardous weather conditions, upstream hazards or secondary imminent disasters.

Most often it will be you, your neighbors or your family conducting the initial rescue.

One thing to be mindful is moving current in water. This is exceptionally dangerous:

Look downstream.
Look upstream.
Look for a landing.
Look for debris.
How cold is the water?
How fast is it moving?
Are you a strong swimmer?
Are you alone or do you have people you are responsible for?
Will your pets stay or go with you and how?

How well do you know the surrounding area you are in? Do you recall any areas you could get to or that would be dangerous to move towards? Is there a chemical plant or waste water treatment plant?

Think about this and concentrate on what your intuition will tell you to do next. Your decisions are vital. Once placed in motion you cannot go backwards.

Will you be able to get onto a roof from the water line if the water rises quickly? Can you help others and pets? Do you have a ladder for water with no current? Is it wood or aluminum? Can you prepare and haul up water and survival items in advance in case of?

Do not go into the attic. You will find yourself trapped with no way out. This is not a good option for you.

Moving Water is Strong Water

If you have a lifejacket grab it and put it on, or find something that can assist for flotation. You will have to act fast, think clearly and strategize. Breathe, relax your thoughts so you can focus and keep moving. One task at at time by conserving your energies.

If you must go into the water or break free from holding onto a fixed object there is only seconds to set up action.

The best way to move from one area to another if it is determined to be safe in current - is to think how far downstream you will drift and what is that path.

Swimming should be done towards the shore anticipated, the angle of your body (ferry angle) will draw you much further away from where you are downstream. Keep stroking by setting an even pace, slow and easy. If you get a muscle cramp its okay, stay calm and you can work with it, just don't start any kind of struggle.

Do not swim into strainers (objects where water can pass through but not objects).

Do not put your feet down, swim on your belly head above water. Keep your body on plane with the surface, kick your feet in a steady slow pace, don't race unless its an emergency.

If you have to floatation device such as an ice chest, hold onto these objects in an upright position. If in the water and you can, float on your back with your feet up on the surface. OR await rescue in a safe dry place, high up away from threats and downed utility lines. If you see a line dragging in the water from power poles or utility poles, do not grab onto it.

When helping others the old quote was 'REACH-THROW-GO'. Now the new quote is 'REACH-THROW-ROW-DON'T GO". This mainly applies not during a disaster flood event, however the principles may apply in some situations and are noteworthy:

1. REACH: Hold on to the dock or your boat and reach your hand, a boat oar, a fishing pole, or whatever you have nearby, to the person

2. THROW: If you can't reach far enough, toss things that float for the person to grab

3. ROW: If you're in a boat, use the oars to move the boat closer to the person in the water, or call out to a nearby boat for help. Don't use the boat's motor close to a person in the water, they could be injured by the propeller

4. DON'T GO: Don't go into the water unless you are trained. Call out for help

Remember, even a strong swimmer can drown trying to help others. If all else fails, go for help!

Prepare for Survival

Remember your clothes and shoes can be ripped from your body. When take a step in water going towards shore, walk surely and place each foot securely before your shift your weight. You may trip or have debris knock you from behind, and you don't want to fall into the water. Take your time!

For our Safety Behavior it is very important to monitor risks first. If you don't know how to identify risks you need to educate yourself. You can go online and search for videos and articles that can help you.

Trainer responders are certified in water rescue for a variety of disciplines, you can take similar courses. You can get certified by a course provider for swiftwater or flood rescue from a company like Rescue 3

Posted 1.6.2019

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Content Creator: Shawn Alladio cares most about her community and the culture surrounding the safety of event service providers and Rescue Water Craft operators, working hard and dedicated towards protecting their reputation, distributing safety information and continuing to train these amazing individuals to the highest standards of care.

Use at your own risk. Please take a qualified Rescue Water Craft training course and maintain proper records and respect all the PWC, RWC, PPE, and gear OEM manufacturer warning labels and cautions.


James (Jim) Farrell Segerstrom

Jim Segerstrom is considered the founding father of organized training for flood and swiftwater rescue.

He had many friends in the water rescue community. We do miss his energy, wit and driven sense of purpose.

We enjoyed working with Jim for the Rigg Challenge that was created in honor of our friend Nancy Rigg. This was an outstanding
technical rally showcasing teams, knowledge, experience and timing.

Gone But Not Forgotten


We are river people whom mother nature’s rhythms have touched quite closely and been taught by one of her most unique characteristics. A river flows dynamically through its course, its lifespan. It maneuvers around obstacles sometimes avoiding them, sometimes breaking through them, but always traveling towards its end where ever and when ever that end may be. Yet that end is not finite. It is merely the beginning of another journey as the water is evaporated into the sky and re-deposited giving life to another river as it runs a new course. This is simple science, but the metaphor goes far beyond.

I’ve been fortunate to watch Jim interact with many rivers. He was a master of reading water. Skills can take you so far, but a carnal understanding of its powers goes much deeper. Jim was a very good at knowing when an obstacle needed to be avoided and when it could be charged full-on. He was the driving force, the main instigator, behind many innovations in professional rescue education. Safety was number one important. Above and beyond his exploits as a rescue icon he was an innovative leader and catalyst for thousands of people. .

Jim changed the professional rescue community at its core He brought focus back to what it means to train hard and rescue victims safely. Few know how difficult it was to establish the Swiftwater Rescue standard around the world. It started by researching a body of knowledge that did not really exist prior to the founding of Rescue 3 in 1979, and then proceeding on a 10 year expedition around the world to develop it. We worked hard, and our laboratory was a collection of some of the most challenging rescue locations in the world. We learned through trial and error how to give an initiation and empowerment to would be rescuers who faced the terror of moving water. We learned early the importance of the "moving baptism". The critical need to drownproof rescuers by immersing them extensively in the very element they feared.

Everyone thought we were crazy, and that this was excessive and dangerous training. Jim knew the importance of transmuting rescuer fear into rescuer understanding, joy and respect for the element of moving water. There is no doubt that these efforts will continue to bear fruit with fewer rescuer deaths and improved victim outcome around the globe. Let us not forget that Jim was instrumental in planting these amazing karmic seeds. Jim packed a lot of joy for us all in that dash between Feb 1946-Feb 2007. Godspeed my friend.

Mike Crosslin

James Farrell Segerstrom

Feb. 21, 1946 — Feb. 5, 2007

James Farrell Segerstrom, a Sonora resident on and off for 58 years, died Feb. 5 at a San Francisco hospital.

He graduated from Sonora Elementary School, attended Sonora Union High School and graduated from high school at Menlo School in Menlo Park. He graduated from the University of the Pacific in Stockton.

Mr. Segerstrom was a paramedic for 10 years. He established and pioneered the Swift Water Rescue Technician program, which was created in Sonora and became the premier program of its kind world wide.

A Civil War buff, he had a large collection of toy soldiers and enjoyed studying military history. He was in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves for two years.

He was preceded in death by his father, Donald Segerstrom.

Mr. Segerstrom is survived by his wife of 25 years, Shiree of Sonora; a son, James "Christian" Segerstrom of Sonora; his mother, Mary Etta Segerstrom of Sonora; a sister, Ann Segerstrom of San Francisco; three brothers, Donald Segerstrom of Sonora, David Segerstrom of San Diego and Steven Segerstrom of Nevada City; and many cousins, nephews and nieces.



When I am called to duty God,
Whenever people fall,
Give me the strength to save one life,
whatever be the call.

Whether on foot or in flight, Oh Lord
with all of your might,
Lead me to embrace the small, lost child
or save the injured from the wild.

Out from rivers edge or overlooking this ledge,
Enable me to be alert and hear the
weakest shout
to quickly and efficiently bring
my brother out.

With my desire to serve, ability to
perform and the courage to act,
Lord, allow me to deliver my neighbor
safely back.

There are no bounds to which I'll give,
These things I do so that others may live.
And when according to your will,
My earthly tasks must end,
Lord, Please bless with your protecting hand
My family and my friends.

Segerstrom's Memorial Tribute:
Adapted and read by Jacquelyn Potts-TCSAR
February 17, 2007