What Does a Rescue Swimmer Do?

G. Wiesen

The responsibilities of a rescue swimmer are often related to the efforts needed to identify and rescue individuals stranded at sea. One of the major tasks rescue swimmers perform is jumping out of helicopters into open water, since the helicopter cannot land on the water. Rescue swimmers may need to perform mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and similar emergency procedures, and manipulation of various items underwater to free trapped individuals may be required as well. The responsibilities of a rescue swimmer may extend to non-ocean rescues as well, including situations in which flooding occurs and even on dry land.

Rescue swimmers can be deployed from U.S. Coast Guard patrol boats or helicopters.
Rescue swimmers can be deployed from U.S. Coast Guard patrol boats or helicopters.

A rescue swimmer is someone trained to rescue people at sea or in similar environments, often as part of a military organization. In the US, for example, both the Navy and Coast Guard train and maintain rescue swimmers for use in military operations and rescue operations at sea. Such swimmers are trained in various methods used in rescuing people at sea, such as learning to use demolitions underwater and other practices that can be used to free someone who may be trapped under wreckage or debris. A rescue swimmer may also be trained in performing surveillance or intelligence operations for military organizations at sea.

Rescue swimmers are often needed during storms.
Rescue swimmers are often needed during storms.

One of the most important and dangerous responsibilities of a rescue swimmer is jumping into the ocean from a helicopter. This is typically done in situations in which someone is unable to climb into the rescue basket that is lowered from a helicopter and requires more assistance. Though water is not a solid substance, it can still be dangerous to hit it from very high altitudes, so jumping into water is typically done from a helicopter that is as low as possible. Since a rescue swimmer may need to jump into the ocean during a storm, however, this may be made even more difficult as the crests and troughs created by waves can dangerously increase the jump distance from one moment to the next.

A rescue swimmer is typically trained to perform rescues in other situations and environments as well. When heavy flooding occurs, rescue swimmers may be deployed to look for people in flooded homes or to rescue people from their own rooftops. Due to the training of a rescue swimmer in dealing with unpredictable or treacherous terrain, these swimmers may also be used to rescue people stranded in various wilderness areas, such as lost hikers or mountain climbers who cannot be safely reached through terrestrial means.

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