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  safety on the water - river running safety
The FIRST premise in kayaking and river running is self-rescue.

Save your own ass first, then you may be able to assist others.
When on the river, my rule is safety first, and every time.    Get safe.    Stay safe. 
Proper planning and thought out decisions equal better results.

Human beings are fragile when injured, and when under considerable environmental stress, human life can slip away very quickly.
River runners must be prepared for all situations.

Self Rescue
Within the model of safety, self-rescue is primary.
Saving your own butt is key to being a resourcefull kayaker or boatman.
Once you have gained your own safety, then you can consider helping others if it is safe to do so. 
Be weary of the those quick to act without thinking, the "hero syndrome" can be deadly. Heroes often make a bad situation worse.

Kayaking and river running is exposure.
Many times a boater is out of vision from the group, in the crux of a drop and out of vision, or behind the group and just out of vision when shit goes down. Being a quick thinker, knowing what to do in a variety of situations and constantly moving are essential skills for a paddler to possess.

Part of running rivers safely is proper preparation.
Proper preparation includes having all the necessary equipment, having it in good working order, being familiar with the proper deployment and use of gear, and having a calm, level head to deal with unexpected situations.

Group Rescue
The standard rule accepted and in practice by river runners is that a boater is responsible for the safety and whereabouts of the boater behind him, regardless of circumstance.  If the guy in front is paddling too fast, you are still responsible for the boater behind you. Never be in a rush to run a river.
Always boat with the courtesy and respect that you would expect from others.

Group rescue involves medical knowledge (CPR, First Aid, EMT skills, ALS), knowing how to properly diagnose and treat hypothermia and trauma.
Group rescue involves knowing how to assist with a wrapped boat by using mechanical advantage.
Deploying rope systems and mechanical advantage involves practice, proper equipment and safe, established rescue skills and protocols.

Crew selection and rules of running are key items for any creek or river run, because each member of a crew is responsible for himself, and for everyone else on the crew.  I rely upon you to assist me (should I need it) and you rely upon me to help you out (if you should need help). 
Crews must be tight, communicate well, must be able to fully trust each other, and must have the base skills to undertake the run at hand.

The group needs to be small enough to be effective on the river.   A group with too many members is more of a burden than its worth.

A good paddling crew checks their egos at the door.  The river is NO place for ego-based decision making.

River Running Style
Typical rules of engagement for river safety:

Wear a properly fitted PFD at all times on the river and on the shoreline. If you are running a river and wearing a helmet, keep your helmet on until you are in camp.
Leave helmets on for scouts.

Be prepared for the extreme elements and be ready to deal with them.

Wear protective footwear and proper clothing.

Carry a first aid kit, review medical protocols and stay current with CPR and First Aid.

Tell someone where you are going and when you should return.

Boat river sections that fit your ability/skill level the best. Be honest. Be practical, it is your life.  If you cannot see your line, do not run the rapid.  If you need others to run before you run, consider portage or an easier grade section of river.  Boating within your comfort zone is what makes your boating career fun and life long.

Avoid the trashy rapids. Road-blasted, irregular or junky rapids are best off left alone. Exceptions are made, but running mank is a personal decision and its better to run clean rapids and keep kayaking.

Never run a rapid without seeing a clear path through it.  When you doubt anything about a rapid, pull over and scout or portage.

When a boater decides to run a rapid that others in the group are not running, then safety has to be recalculated.
When injuries occur on the river, when one person gets hurt, the entire group must work to evacuate that injury.

Think like a group, act like a group, and stay as a group.

Dress on the river like you are dressing in preparation for taking a swim.
Wear a full coverage helmet that fits properly.
 boat selection

stay up to date on boat styles and river rescue and safety technology

product design flaws and product updates are key information for the owners of safety and river gear

situation management
kayaking dishes out plenty of variables in addition to the variables that rivers/creeks represent.

Having the skills to properly, quickly and safely deal with a pinned kayak, a wrapped boat or a person stranded in difficult to access terrain makes all the difference in your success.
Know how to work with ropes.  Practice and deploy frequently to keep the mind fresh on rope use.
Consider taking a certified whitewater rescue course, and revisiting the course materials on frequent intervals.

Know river knots
Survival Gear
Shelter to prevent hypothermia, to regulate body temperature, and to stay hydrated and fueled.

Risks to our survival in order of threat:
1. exposure
2. thirst
3. hunger

Why is this?
Because you can die of exposure/hypothermia before you die of thirst, and you can die of thirst before you starve to death.

How to avoid the hardships of exposure?
Pack, review and use a good survival kit.

Survival Kit (this entire kit can be contained inside one standard sized nalgene bottle ):
  • bright orange survival blanket (sometimes called a "heat sheet")
  • wet fire firestarters
  • small compass
  • Fox whistle
  • candle (with aluminum foil wrapped round the candle)
  • energy bar
  • water purification tablets
  • LED flashlight
  • two lighters
  • TP in ziplock bag
  • plastic wrap
  • good knife
  • sunscreen and bug dope

email : kayakcraig@yahoo.com
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Last Modified: 11/2005
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