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SCV Sheriff's Guide To Swift Water Dangers

As heavy rains continue to impact the Southland, the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station would like to remind all residents of the dangers associated with swift water, flood channels, and riverbeds.

Unfortunately, every year many people are injured and some even lose their lives when wandering too close to a waterway that normally is not dangerous, yet becomes treacherous when large volumes of water containing debris are forced through during heavy rainfall.  


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Local swift water rescue teams throughout Los Angeles County respond to about 100 river rescue calls per year, some of which result in fatalities. Children comprise the highest percentage of victims rescued by swift water rescue teams. As a result, we should all talk to our children about the dangers associated with these rapidly moving waters and the importance of staying away from rivers and flood channels.  

There are more than 470 miles of open channels and 2,400 miles of underground storm drains in Los Angeles County. The open channels range in size from 2 to 600 feet in width, and from 2 to 40 feet in depth. The best thing people can do is to stay clear of these areas, but if you do fall in, follow these safety tips:  

  • Try to remain calm
  • Do not waste energy yelling for help after someone has spotted you
  • Get ready to be rescued by trying to float on your back with your legs straight and your feet pointed downstream
  • Use your legs to shove yourself away from obstructions
  • Keep your head up so that you can see where you are going
  • Watch for obstacles and debris
  • Most victims, who do perish in swift water, die when they get pinned against obstacles, or get trapped in submerged debris or vegetation - try to avoid them