Swiftwater Rescue Squad Leader, SWF1

Position Category: 
All-Hazard Positions
Position Code: 
Functional Area: 
AD Class: 


The purpose of this position is to act as a Senior Swiftwater Rescue Team Member and emergency responder during the event of a water based search, rescue or recovery incident.

Major Duties

  • Implements/leads the water based search, rescue and recovery component of the Incident Action Plan.
  • Sizes-up the scene and formulates a swiftwater rescue preplan.  Determines positions and roles needed, equipment requirements, and potential operational hazards.
  • Performs swiftwater/whitewater based search, rescue and recovery operations from shore and in water.  Searches outdoor environments or other locations indicated in the Incident Action Plan using appropriate search equipment and techniques which may include technical rope rescue, hasty searches, grid searching for evidence or clues, aerial searches, or helicopter operations.
  • Operates and handles a variety of inflatable and solid hull watercraft used in swiftwater rescue operations.
  • Retrieves and stabilizes victims, and provides emergency medical treatment within the scope of certification and training.
  • Documents locations of alerts, clues and follow-up tasks.  Cooperates with and assists other search and rescue resources.  Ensures adherence to all safety procedures.
  • Properly utilizes required personal protective equipment (PPE).  Accounts for, utilizes, maintains, and performs minor repair for all issued Search and Rescue (SAR) equipment.
  • Participates/presents briefings, reviews situation reports and stays informed of mission objectives and status changes.
  • Provides input at the field level concerning development of new technologies, equipment, tactics and skills as they pertain to the swiftwater rescue component.
  • Performs additional tasks or duties as assigned during a mission.

Knowledge Required By Position

  • Operational knowledge of the Incident Command System (ICS), and the development and use of integrated action planning concepts and processes.
  • Operational knowledge of search, rescue and recovery systems, strategy and tactics as it pertains to various disaster response environments.
  • Advanced knowledge of water based technical search, rescue, and recovery operations such as would be acquired through completion of an approved National Park Service Swiftwater Rescue course.
  • Understanding of water dynamics and characteristics, including hydraulics, hazards, water crossings, and obstacles.
  • Knowledge of and the ability to construct, rig, and operate vertical and horizontal rigging systems, technical raise and lower systems, and mechanical advantage systems.
  • Ability to manage rope as it moves through a system, manage vertically and horizontally suspended litters, and rig advanced anchor systems.
  • Ability to lead, perform and control in-water contact rescues including “Live Bait” Rescue (rescue swimmer or in-water contact rescue).
  • Ability to operate, handle, and maintain a variety of watercraft used in swiftwater operations such as inflatable rafts, kayaks, and catarafts, with or without motors.
  • Ability to provide emergency medical treatment as a first responder.
  • Practical knowledge of general search strategy and tactics, including map, compass, and GPS techniques.  Good understanding of technical/electronic search device capabilities, limitations and procedures.  Ability to accurately sketch a search area, apply and interpret search area marking techniques for perimeters, alert areas, hazards, etc., and to recognize and identify victim location clues.
  • Knowledge of rescue specialist tools and abilities, and awareness of the hazards associated with the various search environments.

Supervisory Controls

Work direction is provided by the Swiftwater Rescue Team Leader or other designated supervisor.  The work is performed independently as a senior member of a swiftwater team or other all-risk operational team.  Work is reviewed for acceptability with operating and compliance with operating instructions and procedures.


Procedures for doing the work have been established and a number of specific guidelines or standard orders are available such as oral instructions, standard operating procedures, maps, instruction manuals, and health and safety codes.  Occasional problems may not be specifically covered by guidelines.

The incumbent uses independent judgment in locating and selecting the most appropriate guidelines, references and procedures based on the situation at hand, and individual park rules and regulations.


The incumbent works in a wide variety of functional areas which require diverse skills, often involving critical lifesaving situations such as search and rescue, emergency medical and aviation incidents, as well as interactions that require sensitivity to business relationships.  Emergency response often involves decision-making and action in extremely adverse physical and emotional conditions and ability to function effectively in controversial and/or sensitive situations.  Work requires application and modification of established practices in most areas of responsibility, with considerable individual discretion and judgment exercised in emergency situations.

Scope and Effect

The purpose of this position is to participate in water-based search, rescue, and recovery operations, to implement incident objectives for a safe operation, and to work for short to extended periods of time when looking for clues or lost subjects during multi operational period incidents.

The efficiency of assignments and safety depends upon the effectiveness and timeliness of the Search Team Members decisions and actions.

Personal Contacts

Personal contacts are with local agency search and rescue team personnel, and/or incident management team personnel during the duration of the incident.  Additional contacts may be made with media operations, family members, special interest groups, and others interested and assisting with the incident.

Purpose of Contacts

The purpose of contacts is to obtain briefings and orders, as well as to relay incident information to and from the incident management team and other team members, and to provide general and specific information and assistance.

Physical Demands

Work routinely involves physically rigorous assignments and strenuous activity.  Incumbent must maintain excellent physical condition to carry out responsibilities, including the ability to hike and climb in mountainous and desert terrain, to perform lengthy search, rescue and recovery missions, to perform assignments in remote areas of steep, hazardous terrain, accessible only by foot, and in all weather conditions, as well as in swiftwater environments.  These routine and emergency situations often require clear reasoning and decisive action under conditions of extreme mental and physical stress.

Work Environment

Work environment is predominantly outdoors in all types of terrain conditions, night or day, including in inclement weather, and for prolonged periods of time.  Travel to incident locations may be by foot, vehicle, aircraft or boat.  The incumbent is subject to cold, hot, windy, wet, or snowy conditions for several days at a time.


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