Introduction: Vehicles stranded in rising water account for the majority of swiftwater rescues (SWR) during urban and small stream flash flooding. Multiple simultaneous SWR incidents are commonplace during severe storms. Historically, SWR teams have pursued a “reach, throw, row, go” strategy, but boat operations and/or in-water rescue attempts can be technically complicated, time-consuming and a drain on rescuer resources.
Aim: To design an ideal SWR modality for use during urban and small stream roadway flooding. Methods: SWR objectives, strategy and tactics were mapped against various transportation modalities to develop the safest solution for urban and small stream flood response.
Results: High water vehicles (HWV), such as the “deuce and a half” 6x6 military truck, represent a new standard for SWR practicality and safety as they reduce how many rescuers must be in-water. HWV are heavy and high enough to be stable in 5 feet of 15 MPH swiftwater. A properly designed emergency response package includes a fording kit, multi-directional floodlights for nighttime safety, public safety radios, and a siren that doubles as a public address system to coach victims as rescue is initiated. Deployable ladders enable rescuer egress from and victim access to a covered lighted cargo bed that holds PPE, throw bags and rescue rings; a deployable “boat in a bag" for victims who require ferrying; and a seating area where medical evaluation can be conducted while staying dry.
Discussion: SWR are dangerous resource-intensive incidents which account for more rescuer morbidity/mortality than all other technical rescue sub-types combined. These incidents will increase in frequency and severity worldwide due to climate change and overdevelopment. If rescue conditions are still tenable, HWV are the most efficient and effective platform for conducting SWR from roadways while decreasing safety risks to first responders and victims.