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Water rescue management in suburban environments

Martin F. Helmke, PhD, EMT-B, Scott T. Davis, BA, Michael E. Degnan, BS, Daniel A. Wojton, BS, Gregory Witmer, BA, EMT-B


Effective water rescue management requires careful assessment of historical data, prediction of future rescue locations, and proper allocation and deployment of resources to ensure effective and safe rescue operations in suburban environments. Emergency workers in suburban communities are faced with an increased probability of water rescues resulting from growing population and improved access to waterbodies. This study investigates 152 water rescues performed in suburban Chester County, Pennsylvania, between 2002 and 2008. Fifty percent of the rescues occurred during flood events and were characterized by many multiple, concurrent rescues. The remaining rescues were associated with recreational use of waterbodies and flooding of roadways due to inadequate drainage. In this study, the Water Rescue Probability Index (WRPI) is presented, which uses the spatial correlation of waterbodies, roadways, and population to predict water rescue locations. The WRPI predicted 88 percent of recorded rescues, demonstrating its use as a planning tool. Emergency managers should train and equip their first responders to national standards and must be prepared to use the National Incident Management System when large incidents occur.


water rescue, hydrology, geographic information systems, population density, suburban watersheds

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