Know the steps in a water emergency
April 30, 2009 · Updated 3:22 PM
If you see someone go under the water or witness an accident on the lake, these steps will help speed the rescue effort.
Tell them exactly where you are located. The rescuers need to find you before they can find the victim. Be sure to give the operator your name, phone number and address. Often more than one witness calls for help. Taking information from all the witnesses can help rescuers plan a more accurate search.
Assist the victim.
If you are in a boat, throw the victim a rope, life vest, ring or anything that floats.
Pinpoint the last seen location as closely as possible.
If the victim is underwater, this gives rescuers a smaller search field. Pick a fixed object on the other side of the lake to help judge where the person was last seen. Don't pick an object that can be moved or might drift. Triangulate the location by choosing two fixed objects. If you are in a boat, mark the location by dropping a buoy.
Note your exact location and mark it somehow. Pay attention to whether you were standing or sitting when you witnessed the victim go under. If possible, ask someone else to bring the rescuers to you.
Judging distances can be difficult and inexact.
Try to determine distance based on fixed objects. Telling divers the victim was last seen halfway out from shore is generally more accurate than using measurements.
Note the time.
This will help rescuers know how long the person has been underwater and how far they may have drifted. Waiting for the rescuers to arrive will seem like it takes forever. Most of the time, however, they will be there within fifteen minutes of your call.
Putting diving gear on is cumbersome. There is a process that needs to happen prior to going into the water. Rescuers are going into a hostile environment and it takes time to get is right. Allow them to do their job. Yelling at them does not help.
Don't corroborate with others.
It can be difficult not to talk to other witnesses, but people can subtly change their stories as they corroborate with others, causing confusion.
Provide an accurate description of the victim.
Note the victim's size and what they are wearing. Remember, divers are searching in near darkness. Any information that could help identify the victim is helpful.
º Use technology.
Take a digital photo of the scene using a camera or cell phone. This could provide better documentation of the location than your memory.