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Throw bag grab

Show a person in need that you’ve got this one in the bag, by mastering this crucial rescue technique on land.

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You’ll need

  • Throw bag

Before you begin

  • Before you get stuck into this activity, you could book a visit from the RNLI to learn about water safety.
  • Check your throw bag is in good condition, with the rope securely attached.
  • Get used to the way your throw bag works, as some examples look different to others, with extra handles and other attachments.
  • Make sure you have the right length of rope in your throw bag for the area in which you’ll be working, when you take it out onto the water. It should comfortably reach the spot you’re throwing it to with some slack.
  • A good knot to attach the line with is a bowline.

Run the activity

  1. Show everyone the throw bag and explain what it’s for. Show everyone how to throw, catch and reel in the bag.

The bag is thrown underarm and once caught should be reeled in with the ‘z grip’. To take the z grip, start with your hands held around the rope with your thumbs pointed towards your body and knuckles to the sky. Then, turn your hands to point your thumbs to the sky and shorten the rope.

  1. Begin the demonstration of how to use the throw bag. Start with the rope stuffed into the bag. Get everyone to stand in two lines facing one another with about three metres between them.

The demonstration is clearest if there’s between eight and 10 people working with one throw bag.

  1. At one end of the line, a person should take the throw bag and throw it to the person opposite them. The person who catches it should coil the rope loosely rather than stuffing it back in the bag, before throwing it to the next person down in the opposite line.
  2. Continue in this way until the throw bag reaches the end of the line.
  3. When they’ve done this, have everyone take some steps back. There should now be six metres between the two lines. Repeat steps three and four.

You may need to move outside if you’re short on space.

  1. Now, have everyone stand in a circle of diameter six metres and throw the bag to one another. When they throw, they should call the name of the person they’re throwing to. The person who catches the bag should reel in the loose rope using the z grip, with their thumbs pointed towards them and their knuckles pointed upward, rotating their hands and turning their thumbs upward to take in the slack. Then they should throw to the next person in the same way. Continue until everyone has had a chance to try the z grip.
  2. If practising this rescue technique further on flowing water, like a river, here are the steps you should follow:
    • Throw the rope to a buoy or marker, rather than a person, as this is much safer.
    • The designated rescuer should stand on firm ground at the water’s edge.
    • The rescuer should check above them for obstructions like branches or power lines, and change their position if they see any.
    • Take the rope securely at about 1.2m from the free end and take the bag in the throwing hand.
    • Throw the bag underarm to the target in the water. If the target’s moving in the current, throw the bag slightly ahead of where it’s moving, so as not to hit it, but to drop into its path.
    • If the throw misses, the rescuer should quickly gather in the rope and coil it loosely, as it’d take too long to restuff the bag.
    • If the throw is on target, reel in the rope with the z grip and reset the throw bag for the next rescuer to try.

This is how it would work in a real life when rescuing from dry land or a rescue boat:

  • The rescuer shouldn’t assume that the person in the water knows what they’re doing, or that they’ve been in this situation before and know what to do.
  • The rescuer needs to shout to the person to tell them everything that they’re doing to keep them from panicking and so that they know how to react.
  • The rescuer should make sure they’ve got a secure footing and brace for the rope to go taut as the person in the water grabs the bag.
  • When the person being rescued has the rope, they should turn their back on the rescuer, hold onto the end of the rope with both hands and tuck the slack under their armpit. This will keep them above the water surface when the rope goes taut.
  • When the rope goes taut, the person holding it will swing towards the bank in a pendulum motion.
  • The rescuer should begin to pull and shorten the rope, using the z grip.
  • When the person is close enough to the bank, they’ll need help from other rescuers to climb out onto land. Then, they need to get warm and dry as quickly as possible, and have any injuries treated. If you can, revisit the emergency call procedure.


Knowing the steps to take in an emergency situation helps keep us calm and help us react in the safest, most effective way in a real emergency. This skill applies not just to those who are saving lives, but also to those who may need to be saved. Knowing how to attract attention or catch a line safely will help rescuers reach you if you’re in danger. Congratulate everyone for taking steps to improve their life-saving skills.


All activities must be safely managed. You must complete a thorough risk assessment and take appropriate steps to reduce risk. Use the safety checklist to help you plan and risk assess your activity. Always get approval for the activity, and have suitable supervision and an InTouch process.

Active games

The game area should be free of hazards. Explain the rules of the game clearly and have a clear way to communicate that the game must stop when needed. Take a look at our guidance on running active games safely.

Water games and activities

Be careful when doing activities with, in, or near water. Check surfaces and reduce the risk of slipping where possible. Make sure you have appropriate supervision for this activity.

Near water

Manage groups carefully when near water. The guidance on activities near water will help you to keep your group safe.

  • Change the challenge by presenting obstacles for throwers on land to make choosing a spot tougher, or by changing the distance between people in the practice throw.
  • Try throwing at a target to add competition, like a fruit bowl or tin.

Make it accessible

All Scout activities should be inclusive and accessible.

Take to the water and test your rescuing skills. There are other ways to rescue someone in the water, depending on the type of activity you’re taking part in. Research and try out some other ways to stay safe on the water.

If someone has fallen in the water, they may need medical attention. Why not have a look at your Emergency Aid Staged Activity Badge next?

By learning a life-saving skill, everyone has contributed to keeping the group safe on the water, allowing you to run more water-based or near-water activities.