The opening story of the helo rescue gone bad was loosely based on a real event that occurred August 7, 1981. The crew of CG1471 from Airsta Kodiak was responding to a distress call of a fishing vessel near Prince William Sound. As the crew attempted to hoist the survivors of the boat, a wave hit the tail of CG1471 causing the helo to crash into the seas. A painting named "So Others May Live" hangs on CG Airsta Kodiak depicting the rescue.

The movie uses clips of real incidents supplied to Walt Disney by the UK Maritime and Coastguard Agency during the training sequences in scenes at the training school.

60,000 pounds of ice were used on the Elizabeth City set to recreate some of the scenes that were supposed to be filmed in Kodiak, Alaska.

Chief Flythe, played by Joseph 'Butch' Flythe, who can be seen in various scenes throughout the film, was one of the first five operating rescue swimmers in the Coast Guard, graduating from A school in 1984 and beginning his work at the Elizabeth City base in 1985.

One of the students was Mark Gangloff, an Olympic swimmer who won gold in Athens.

The Coast Guard A school for rescue swimmers is not at Barksdale AFB in Louisiana, but Elizabeth City, North Carolina.

The production company hired local contractors to build a massive indoor wave pool for production.

Part of the movie was filmed in the pool at Louisiana State University of Shreveport, and the local Olympic Weightlifting club was forced to train outside of the building during filming because their location across the hall made too much noise when athletes dropped the weights.

Following the series of hurricanes in the southern United States in 2005, production moved to Shreveport, Louisiana.

The commanding officer of the Kodiak Alaska Coast Guard Station is named Captain Hadley. The same actor (Clancy Brown) played the senior prison guard in The Shawshank Redemption (1994), also named Captain (Byron) Hadley.

(at around 51 mins) In one of the sequences, stunt coordinator Alex Daniels was shown in a picture hung up on the wall where Ashton Kutcher was looking. The photo of Daniels was taken in his years spent as a lifeguard.

Kevin Costner and Ashton Kutcher are both members of the Delta Chi fraternity.

(at around 1h 18 mins) When Ben shows Jake the newspaper story, the name of the newspaper is the Cedar Rapids (Iowa) Chronicle from Ashton Kutcher's hometown.

In this film, Clancy Brown portrays "Captain William Hadley" and in "The Shawshank Redemption" he portrays "Captain Byron Hadley."

Both times the rescue helicopter pilots announce their holding positions, they say: "Back, and to the left." A clear reference to Kevin Costner's much repeated and parodied line from "JFK" (1991).

A prominent scene in the movie's trailer, where Fisch tells Randall, "That is definitely NOT in the manual!" isn't in the theatrical release of the film because it actually comes from an alternate ending. In the alternate ending, Fisch successfully holds onto Randall's fingertips, getting him into the helicopter and saving him. The writer, director, producer, and others involved in the film preferred the ending where Randall dies, as it had more emotional impact.