From 1980-2012, 81 persons drowned in New Zealand while attempting to rescue others. Of these, most (80%) were male, and all rescue fatalities occurred in open waters. Festivalgoers (N = 415) attending a cultural event in Auckland, New Zealand took part in a water safety survey that included information on their readiness to respond in a drowning emergency. Many indicated they would jump in and rescue a victim (47%), less than one third (30%) would get flotation to the victim. Significantly more males responded that they would jump in and rescue (males 55%, females 40%). Most (62%) estimated that they could only swim less than 100 m; 85% reported having swum that distance a swimming pool rather than in open water where most rescues take place; and one half (50%) had last swum the distance more than one year ago. Ways of promoting safe rescue knowledge are discussed and further research directions are identified.