Rescuing more than one person

Pool lifeguard saving a person

Drowning related incidents can occur at any time, any season and any day of the year, often involving more than one person. Although rescues of more than one person are not as common, they should only be attempted if the rescuer is a strong swimmer and has extensive rescue experience.

Your first priority should be your personal safety

When performing a rescue in any situation, the first priority should be your personal safety. Rescuing more than one person can be extremely strenuous for the rescuer and dangerous for all parties involved. When faced with this situation, rescuers should not only ensure that they are physically capable, but have utilized the basic rescue techniques of talk, reach, throw, wade and row before attempting a rescue involving more than one person.

Should you be required to rescue more than one person there are a few tips you can use.

Are any rescue or buoyancy aids available?

When rescuing more than one person is important to identify if there are any available rescue or buoyancy aids which could assist with the rescue. This could include a range of items such as, life jackets, lifebuoys and other items which have sufficient buoyancy such as a tire. The effective use of such aids can help to:

  • Provide support for those involved during a non contact tow
  • Provided support whilst the rescuer tows another individual towards safety
  • Tow multiple people to safety if the rescuer is strong enough.

If no buoyancy aid is available and the individuals requiring a rescue remain calm, the rescuer may be able to instruct the individuals to position themselves on their back, lay side by side where the rescuer can then swim behind and between the individuals whilst maintaining a safe distance.

When the situation arises where individuals are grasping on another in attempt to remain buoyant, the rescuer should

  • Place a buoyant aid between the individuals
  • Instruct the individuals to hold the aid
  • Tow the individuals to safety.

It is important that you understand the risks involved with rescues, particularly when it comes to rescuing more than one person. 

For more information on performing rescues, check out our Swimming and Lifesaving book!

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