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New App Assists Responders with Swiftwater Rescues

4/15/2010 12:00 AM

Drowning is the number one cause of weather-related deaths nationwide. Moving water contains an enormous amount of energy and ignoring flash flood warnings and entering water of unknown depth is extremely dangerous. Six inches of fast-moving water can knock a person off their feet and as little as 12 inches of swift-moving water can sweep away cars and SUVs, placing the occupants in grave danger. When minutes count, Swiftwater Rescue Specialists now have a new tool at their fingertips to help save lives.

The Texas Engineering Extension Service (TEEX) Urban Search and Rescue division has created a Swiftwater Calculator application for water rescue technicians. The app was designed with input from swiftwater responders and subject matter experts. In three easy steps, responders can use the application to calculate the speed of the current and then determine the maximum distance a person in the water has traveled downstream. After arriving on scene, two responders measure off a known distance, drop an object that floats in the water and use the app to measure the speed of the water. The final step is to input the time at which the person fell in the water, the calculator then displays the maximum distance they could have traveled downstream.

After the initial calculation, as the time on scene progresses, the app continues to update the maximum distance that the person could have traveled. Based on this knowledge, other first responders can determine where to set up teams downstream. “This calculator is not designed to be a substitute for hands-on swiftwater and flood rescue training, but is one of many tools responders can use on scene to successfully locate and rescue someone swept away by swift-moving water,” commented Bob McKee, Director of Texas Task Force 1.

The app was developed by the Response Technology Program for responders worldwide and has the ability to perform calculations in both feet and meters. This is the third iPhone/iTouch/iPad application to be designed, tested and fielded by a TEEX division. These types of applications are an example of the emerging technologies being developed by TEEX using new mediums to assist first responders in saving lives.

The Swiftwater Calculator is available for download.

As flood and hurricane season approaches, citizens are encouraged to “Turn Around, Don’t Drown.”

Contact Information

Kathy Fraser

Associate Director of Marketing and Communications

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