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

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 recent major flood events in Louisiana, South Carolina and Maryland, dozens of videos surfaced on social media of what appeared to be average citizens successfully rescuing people trapped in their cars amid high water.

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.

Residents survey the flood water on Old Jefferson Highway at Bayou Manchac in Prairieville, La., Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2016. (AP Photo/Max Becherer)

"One thing about water is it's relentless, it's powerful but it's also predictable and that's what those that actually work in that environment are trained to work with," Brad Thavenat, a trainer at Dive Rescue International, said.

They are trained to monitor all aspects of the situation, including where underwater threats may lie. What appears to be still, calm water can often be the most dangerous.

While videos on social media purport an illusion that anyone can become a hero in a split second, it can be a platform for misinformation, Thavenat said

"There's no vetting source saying this is the right way to do it," he said. "Some of the folks that are witnessing that think, 'They got away with it. They did it, should be fine with me.'"

People instead turn off the video and are left with a false self-confidence, Thavenat said, not understanding just how lucky both parties were to walk away alive.

In October 2015, the Columbia, South Carolina, area experienced a catastrophic flood event. While many untrained citizens performed successful rescues, that is not always the case, Brick Lewis, captain of the Columbia Fire Department, said.

However, it's a dangerous attempt that puts more lives in danger.

What should you do if you see someone in danger?

Keep your eye on the victim for as long as possible. It's essential to be able to signal to officials where in the water the person in danger can be found.

Call 911. Be specific with the officials in order to get help as soon as possible.

Try to talk to them. If you're in a position to communicate, try and figure out what the situation is.

Be resourceful. If it's possible, try throwing them something to float on or hang on to.

Stay out of the water and keep yourself safe. Never attempt to tie yourself to something in an effort to reach a victim.