The Carnegie Medal is a prestigious award considered one of the highest civilian honors in the U.S. and Canada.

The requirements for the award were established by Andrew Carnegie in 1904 and include:

  • The rescuer must be a civilian who knowingly and voluntarily risks his or her own life to an extraordinary degree. Members of the armed services and children considered by the Commission too young to comprehend the risk involved are ineligible for consideration.
  • The rescuer must have rescued or attempted the rescue of another person.
  • The act of heroism must have occurred in the United States, Canada, or the waters thereof (12 nautical miles).
  • The act must be brought to the attention of the Commission within two years of the date of its occurrence.
  • The act of rescue must be one in which no full measure of responsibility exists between the rescuer and the rescued, which precludes those whose vocational duties require them to perform such acts, unless the rescues are clearly beyond the line of duty; and members of the immediate family, except in cases of outstanding heroism where the rescuer loses his or her life or is severely injured.
  • There must be conclusive evidence to support the threat to the victim’s life, the risk undertaken by the rescuer, the rescuer’s degree of responsibility, and the act’s occurrence.

Once the Commission receives a nomination from the public or from media accounts, our research into the incident begins. Each nomination receives equal attention as we strive to thoroughly understand each incident. The process takes at least several months to complete.  Efforts are typically made to gather information from the nominee, the person rescued, the responding agency, and eyewitnesses to the incident. If the nomination looks like it will meet award requirements, case investigators then conduct telephone interviews and write a detailed report summarizing the rescue act, which is submitted to the Commission for a final decision.

Due to the volume of nominations the organization receives each year — about 800 — only those who ultimately receive the Carnegie Medal — about 11 percent — receive notification. Carnegie Medal nominees curious to know the status of their nominations are welcome to contact us at

If you have been nominated for the Carnegie Medal and your case is under consideration, please keep the Commission informed of any changes to your contact information.