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Water Safety

Over the Memorial Day weekend, news broke concerning two officers who became trapped by flood waters after attempting to rescue a group of kids from a cave. Luckily, everyone was recovered and moved to safety – but unfortunately that is not always the case. Flood waters claim far more officers’ lives than most people recognize and, like many line of duty deaths, there are many times when these situations could have been avoided.

I have spent most of my adult life working on the water and hopefully I can share some of the lessons I have learned to help you come home at the end of your shift.

  1. Police BoatKnow Those Areas Prone to Flooding: A good officer knows where they are most likely to encounter specific crimes, where to find repeat offenders and even where to get a good meal in a safe environment. Shouldn’t you also know which areas are most likely to flood during a flash storm? Shouldn’t you know where you should or shouldn’t be when the skies open?
  2. Have a Plan: Knowing which areas are prone to flooding, especially flash floods, is only part of the battle. Chances are when the water rises you will be called to go into the danger zones, most likely to evacuate civilians who did not themselves leave in time. Your survival depends on having a plan for getting into and out of those areas safely, which should also include alternative routes in case your primary route is inaccessible.
  3. Have Some Basic Equipment: You would never go on patrol without your firearm and other essential gear, so why would you rush into dangerous flood waters without taking the same precaution? While you may not have the ability to tow a rescue boat behind your unit, you can store a few essentials in the trunk just in case. Do you think you could find enough room for a coil of line or rescue bag, a PFD and sharp fixed handle knife? It may not be everything you need, but it will get you out of more jams than you think.
  4. Never Lose Sight of How Dangerous Water Can Be: Water is one of the most dangerous elements of nature you will ever encounter. It can collapse buildings, level forests and drop bridges where they stand. It can also pick up a vehicle and sweep it away as if it were a toy. You need to remember this and understand that every rescuer has a limit and if you try to push past that limit you are more than likely going to become another victim who needs to be rescued.

There are times when, as a law enforcement officer, you will be expected to run towards danger while others run away. That doesn’t mean that you need to be foolhardy or unprepared.

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

Tom Burrell

Tom enlisted in the US Marine Corps Reserves in 1987. Following service in Desert Storm, he transitioned to active duty with the US Coast Guard. In 1997 he left the USCG to pursue a position in conservation & maritime law enforcement. Tom is currently a Captain and he oversees several programs, including his agency investigation unit. He is also a training instructor in several areas including firearms, defensive tactics and first aid/CPR. In 2006 Tom received his Associate’s Degree in Criminal Justice from Harrisburg Area Community College and in 2010 a Bachelor’s Degree from Penn State University.
Tom Burrell

1 thought on “Water Safety

  1. Kudos to Tom for another relevant and oft neglected facet of professional and personal safety! Our planet is mostly bodies of water and yet we tend to focus on the more sensationalized danger topics of our day. Professionals in the public service and civilians alike need honest self-assessments of things that can hurt or kill us. Water related injuries and deaths, heat injuries, and especially traffic related morbidity and deaths are all real possibilities to the professional and civilian. Thanks go out to Tom for reminding us of the power and dangers of water. Unfortunately, many will forget or not hear Tom’s warning—as we go into the summer.

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