REF2014 Impact Case Study: Improving understanding and changing protocols for the rescue and resuscitation of immersion victims

Impact: Societal Impacts, Health & Welfare Impacts

Description of impact

Research undertaken by the Extreme Environmental Medicine & Science Research Group (EEMSRG) in the Extreme Environments Laboratory (EEL) at the University of Portsmouth has had global impact on the protection, rescue and treatment of immersion casualties; international standards, guidelines, policies, campaigns and training manuals of those responsible for the protection, rescue and resuscitation of casualties; and has raised public awareness of immersion issues.

Who is affected

Maritime organisations; Emergency services; General public.


Internationally, immersion is a leading cause of accidental death and the leading cause of death of sportspeople. The EEMSRG introduced the concepts of “Cold Shock”; “Circum-rescue collapse” and “Autonomic conflict”; these major advances in the understanding of the physiological response to immersion have directly informed the protection, rescue and treatment of immersion casualties with EEMSRGs work regularly used in fatal accident enquiries and legal cases.

EEMSRG research has informed the training programmes of numerous international organisations including the International Lifesaving Federation, and in many first aid and search and rescue training manuals, including those of: the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI), Royal Yachting Association (RYA), Mountain Rescue; Surf Lifesaving GB and New Zealand; Moroccan SAR; Royal Netherlands SAR; US Lifesaving Association; UK and Canadian military SAR; Yachting Australia.

Our publication “A proposed decision-making guide for the search, rescue and resuscitation of submersion (head under) victims based on expert opinion” is being used internationally. In the UK it has been the catalyst to move the different SAR agencies towards using a common operational protocol: “Portsmouth University influenced our thinking, assisted and supported the development of National Guidance” and our work appears verbatim in the Fire & Rescue Services National Operational Guidance on Water Rescue and Flooding.

Impact statusOpen
Category of impactSocietal Impacts, Health & Welfare Impacts
Impact levelBenefit (delivered impact)


  • resusitation
  • immersion victims


  • REF2014