The Higgins & Langley Memorial Awards are acknowledged internationally as the premier recognition for accomplishments in swiftwater and flood rescue. The awards were established in 1993 in honor of Earl Higgins, a writer and filmmaker who lost his life in 1980 while rescuing a child who was swept down the flood-swollen Los Angeles River, and Jeffrey Langley, a Los Angeles County Fire Department firefighter-paramedic and swiftwater rescue pioneer, who lost his life in a helicopter incident in 1993.

The Higgins and Langley Memorial Awards are not intended as recognition of heroism only, but acknowledge individuals and swiftwater rescue teams that have utilized this specialized technical rescue discipline for lifesaving, increased awareness about the need for swiftwater and flood rescue training, promoted worldwide training standards of certification, and inspired other agencies to develop viable water rescue programs.

These attributes should be highly considered in the creation of a submission package.

Submission Categories:

The Higgins and Langley Memorial Awards Board will confer an award strictly based on submitted information. Lack of complete or invalidated information may delay or deter the Board’s decision. The Board has the discretion to not accept an application, change the category or not confer an award if they feel a submission does not merit recognition. There are five categories of awards:

Outstanding Achievement Award: This award recognizes excellence in swiftwater and flood rescue. It signifies an intense dedication to the field and a genuine desire to benefit the larger community responsible for the service. Safety, competence, and far reaching impact are key criteria. Only one award may be presented in any calendar year.

Program and Team Development Award: Presented to individuals or agencies that commit time, resources, education, and training for successful swiftwater and flood rescue team development. The program must reflect excellence and defines state-of-the-art advancement for swiftwater and flood rescue. Program model exemplifies the science and safety of water rescue. Long-range outcomes are a fundamental criterion. Multiple awards may be presented in any calendar year.

Incident Award: A specific water rescue, recovery operation, or prolonged mission that clearly demonstrates outstanding training, skill and preparedness in a swiftwater or flood rescue. Incident nomination can be individual, multiple individuals, and/or teams. Multiple awards may be presented in a calendar year.

Special Commendation Award: Recognizes the breadth of possible contribution in the field of swiftwater and flood rescue. The award can be for media contribution, product innovations, strategic planning, individual heroism, esprit de corps, or recommendation by the Higgins and Langley Board of Directors. Multiple awards may be presented in a calendar year.

Lifetime Achievement Award: Reserved for those few individuals who (because of their work, actions, influence, and dedication) make a significant and lasting impact in the field of swiftwater and flood rescue. Criteria include time-honored or notable results. Lifetime Achievement Awards represent the pinnacle accomplishment for an individual’s career.


Although each Category recognizes a different facet related to swiftwater or flood rescue, criteria to be considered for all submissions:

  • Any individual or team worldwide is eligible.
  • Swiftwater and flood rescue training used by participating personnel must meet internationally recognized standards, or be equivalent to recognized standards in cases where such training is not readily available.
  • Recipient(s) reflect(s) a high standard of integrity, safety, training, equipment, preparedness and dedication in relationship to available resources, utilizing them to effect or attempt to effect rescues of persons and/or animals in distress.
  • Anyone who expands the knowledge for other personnel, teams, units, agencies or the community about the importance of swiftwater and flood water safety, training, and preparedness.
  • Incident Awards are limited to those conducted during the previous calendar year; certain exceptions may be considered. Other awards often span careers and agency program development timelines.


Nominations shall be submitted to the electronic or physical address noted on the Higgins & Langley web site Requests for information on the Higgins and Langley Memorial Awards should be addressed through the web site. Nominations shall include.

Submit nomination form in order to be received by the Higgins and Langley Memorial Awards Board by the posted deadline. Note: Incomplete data, non-validated information or non-receipt by the deadline could delay or prevent a nomination from being viewed by the Board.

Click here to nominate


The Higgins and Langley Memorial Awards are presented at a special ceremony each year to honor the recipients and organizations.

The Higgins and Langley awards are proudly presented at the International Association of Water Rescue Professionals (IAWRP) Symposium in South Bend, IN. These awards are independent of the symposium. IAWRP participants are highly encouraged to attend. Lodging is also available at the Double Tree South Bend, IN.

Name and Contact information for Nominee(s):

Information in Blocks 7 and 12 must be complete and spelled accurately in a way that can translate to award certificates and for other publication. All information in Block 7 shall be accurately completed on additional pages for other nominees, parties or team members. Any errors or oversights resulting in the need to replace or reprint certificates or other awards will be covered by the submitting agency, including shipping and handling.