How dangerous is it for untrained bystanders to perform water rescues?

By Katy Galimberti, AccuWeather staff writer

If you were trapped in rushing floodwaters, it wouldn't matter who extends a hand. You would take it, and hold on with all your might.

But how safe is it for a bystander to step in?

In major flood events in the United States, including several occurrences in 2016, videos typically surface on social media of what appear to be average citizens successfully rescuing people trapped in their cars amid high water.

flooded car hurricane matthew south carolina - AP

A car is surrounded by floodwaters on Highway 9, Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2016, in Nichols, S.C., as Hurricane Matthew struck the United States. (AP Photo/Rainier Ehrhardt)

While the risky rescue attempts speak to the helping nature of the human spirit, officials are wary of the practice.

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"It's human nature to save lives," Brad Tracey, a water rescue instructor and trainer at the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, told AccuWeather. "But a lot of people don't understand the power of moving water of the force that the water packs."

In order to perform water rescues, officials take lengthy specialized training courses, perform simulated rescues at water courses and are equipped with the necessary personal flotation devices and other tools needed.

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