Technical Rescue

HELICOPTER OPERATIONS IN SWIFTWATER RESCUES

Issue 7 and Volume 156.

BY LARRY COLLINS The use of improved helicopter-based swiftwater and flood rescue methods can save lives that might otherwise be lost to the effects of flash floods, slow-rise flooding, dam failure, hurricanes and tropical storms, and tsunamis. The methods presented in this article are based on a successful and time-proven helicopter-based swiftwater rescue program developed for the demanding conditions found in Southern California floods. Helicopters are among the most versatile and effective rescue tools ever invented. They provide timely access and transportation options to fire/rescue personnel who might otherwise arrive too late to save victims. Helicopters provide highly mobile, multielevation platforms from which to launch rescue operations under otherwise daunting conditions. They are capable of conducting flood and swiftwater rescue operations at night, in rain, and in wind (within limits). They can perform aerial search operations that include thermal imaging, night vision, and other methods. Helicopters are particularly helpful under…

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