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Thread: Rafting Put-In Safety Talk ..

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    Member 6XLeech's Avatar
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    Default Rafting Put-In Safety Talk ..

    Tom Schulz/Blue Moose Rafting, gave an informative pre-launch safety talk last June before our family's first float trip on the Gulkana. It contained many points from the following and was an excellent idea especially with an inexperienced group. Edited only slightly, this good list of reminders is from the NRS Rafting Put-in Safety Talk: http://www.nrsweb.com/safety_tips/putin_safety_talk.asp)

    The put-in safety talk is an important element in ensuring a successful, safe trip. How extensive it needs to be depends on the group mix. The goal is to prepare trip members for emergencies that can occur, not to traumatize them!

    On the water safety:

    1. Wear your PFD at all times when on the water; emergency situations can develop suddenly. Your PFD is your main safety device, make sure it’s properly fastened and adjusted... When you remove your PFD at lunch or at the end of the day, be sure to clip it securely to the boat. If it’s loose, a gust of wind or motion of the boat can send it into the water.

    2. Listen to the boat captain. He or she is experienced and will be depending on you to follow directions quickly.

    3. Never hesitate to point out downstream obstacles to the captain; they may not have seen them. If you’re new to “reading water”, other experienced boaters will be glad to help you learn.

    4. Protect your feet by keeping your shoes on while you’re on the water.

    5. Getting tangled in loose ropes and straps can be very dangerous. Keep them properly secured and out of the way. NEVER tie yourself into the boat or tie a line around yourself.

    6. Self-Rescue:
    a). Close to the boat and a strong swimmer? You may be able to swim quickly to the boat and get pulled back in.
    b). If separated from the boat or in big whitewater, you may have to get through the rapid first. Float on your back with your feet downstream. This allows you to see what’s coming and to push off rocks and obstacles with your feet, instead of your head. Don't lock your knees while floating. Collision with an obstacle can jam and injure knee joints; plus, locked knees don't allow you to control the push-off from the obstacle.

    7. In a rescue situation, save people first and floating equipment later. If you are tossed from a paddle boat, hang onto your paddle if possible; it can be extended out to the boat to help pull you back to it. Let it go if the paddle is interfering with your swimming and ability to self-rescue.

    8. Get back to the boat if you can, but don’t float downstream of it. This creates the danger of being crushed between the boat and an obstacle.

    9. If you’re floating through whitewater, breathe in during the wave troughs and hold your breath when the waves break over you.

    10. If the boat flips, protect your head from impact with hard objects like frames and oars. If you come up under the raft, get out from under it quickly, preferably on the upstream side. If possible, climb on the overturned boat and help right it. In the case that you are separated from the boat, float on your back and make your way to shore or another boat.

    11. At all costs avoid being swept under a log or “strainer”. If you find yourself going into one, flip onto your stomach, swim hard and get on top of the obstacle. If you go under it, there’s extreme danger of getting trapped underwater.

    12. In all swimming situations, keep your feet up to avoid foot entrapment. Only put your feet down in very shallow or very calm water.

    13. High siding: If the boat strikes a rock, jump to the side nearest the rock. If weight isn’t transferred quickly to this side, water can pile up on the upstream side, force the upstream tube under water and the terrific force of the moving water will “wrap” the boat bottom against the rock. The command is “High side!!” When you hear that, move quickly.

    14. Keep legs inside boat to reduce risk of crush between the boat and rocks.

    15. When signaling another boat about an obstacle point to the clear path, NOT to the obstacle.

    16. Demonstrate the use of throw/rescue bags. Warn against tying the rope to yourself and avoiding entanglement in the rope. Explain how to hold the rope if you’re the one being rescued; to grab the rope, not the bag, and to hold the rope at your chest, lie on your back and kick to assist the rescuer. If you are the rescuer, select a spot that allows you to swing the swimmer into a safe area.

    17. Discuss sun protection and keeping hydrated.

    On shore safety:

    18. Many accidents occur when getting out of the boat and in scouting rapids. River rocks are often “moss” covered and slippery. Take your time when scouting.

    19. Noxious plants: No poison ivy/oak in Alaska, but make brief recognition of other plants which can irritate the skin after contact, such as Devil’s Club, cow parsnip.

    20. When taking side-hikes, carry a first aid kit and be sure to tell others where you’re going. It’s safest to hike with at least one other person.

    21. Communication devices: Sat phones in water-seal box, with instructions, emergency contact numbers

    22. Other things that can be covered in the put-in talk:
    * Agree on signals that will be used on the water.
    * Agree on the order and spacing of boats.
    * Rinse feet off before getting in boats.
    * How human waste will be handled on the trip.
    * How bathing, hand washing and dish cleanup with soap will be handled.
    * Stress the importance of washing hands after using the toilet and before handling food.
    * Stress leaving camps cleaner than we find them, picking up micro-trash, not feeding wildlife and recycling cans and plastics.
    * Drink only properly treated water.
    * How fires and charcoal cooking will be handled.
    * Where the first aid supplies are kept.

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    Member 6XLeech's Avatar
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    Default Item: 6 - Self Rescue - Comments?

    6. Self-Rescue:
    a). Close to the boat and a strong swimmer? You may be able to swim quickly to the boat and get pulled back in.
    b). If separated from the boat or in big whitewater, you may have to get through the rapid first. Float on your back with your feet downstream. This allows you to see what’s coming and to push off rocks and obstacles with your feet, instead of your head. Don't lock your knees while floating. Collision with an obstacle can jam and injure knee joints; plus, locked knees don't allow you to control the push-off from the obstacle.

    I heard recently on an instructional DVD - advice to swim to shore if you're in the water, separated from the boat - the idea being getting out is the only solution to your problem.

    If you're going to swim to shore, especially in a big river with brisk current, what is the best way to do it? Is the best way to swim upstream, angling toward shore, which would offer these advantages:
    1). Keep your feet shallow
    2). Keep your feet downstream
    3). Allow you to take advantage of the current to ferry yourself to shore; the current pushes your angled body to shore, much like wind pushes a sail?

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    Member AlaskaTrueAdventure's Avatar
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    Thumbs up Close your eyes....

    In a prior lifetime I used to conduct commercial rafting trips on Lions Head (Mat River) and on Eagle River starting at the hwy overpass/campground and ending at the take-out on Fort Richardson. Note that these are both glacial rivers. Each safety briefing started off with me placing a thermometer in the cold river water. I then discussed the items mentioned in the prior posts.

    At the end of each safety briefing I would pull the thermometer out of the water. Sunny or cloudy, it always read 36 or 37 degrees. I would then ask all customer-rafters to place one hand briefly in the water, and notice that only two inches into the water their fingers became obscured by the glacial silt. I would then ask them to close their eyes for 5 of 8 seconds, and I would tell them....."That is what you can see from the bottom of this cold, glacial river, so stay in the boat!"

    Seemed to always have an effect....

    Dennis
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    Default The desired effect...

    Dennis,
    Great tip! My brother is flying up for a flyout float in August.
    Others in our group will have some/limited experience and he'll have none.
    When we review these safety points, your suggestions should inspire us .
    Thanks.

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    Default

    6XLeech,

    Great post man. Thanks for sharing. New to rafting myself and this is good info. Ordered a book off Amazon the other day, "Guides guide to river trips" or similar. Link is below. Read on the description where it has safety talk suggestions in the book (and tons of other info). Winter time is a good time for reading up on subjects like this. Thanks for the post.

    http://www.amazon.com/Guides-Guide-A...6574563&sr=8-1
    The two loudest sounds known to man: a gun that goes bang when it is supposed to go click and a gun that goes click when it is supposed to go bang.

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    Default Item 16 and the guide's guide...

    Dan,
    Thanks for the reference. I ordered a copy of McGinnis's book.

    Speaking of guides, Mike Strahan's float hunting book actually has good rescue technique/eqmt info too. Regarding Item 16 on list (below), Strahan recommends: "Delivering a rescue line on target is a crucial skill that requires practice".

    16. Demonstrate the use of throw/rescue bags. Warn against tying the rope to yourself and avoiding entanglement in the rope. Explain how to hold the rope if you’re the one being rescued; to grab the rope, not the bag, and to hold the rope at your chest, lie on your back and kick to assist the rescuer. If you are the rescuer, select a spot that allows you to swing the swimmer into a safe area.

    Karen Jettmar dedicates an early chapter to Safety, and emphasizes "Practice your skills and know self-rescue techniques"

    The guides must have some good stories about safety, eh?

    Best wishes on your float this season,
    Dwight

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    Default

    6X-Dwight,

    Nova River Runners, owned by Chuck Spalding(?), in Chickaloon used to teach a SWITHWATER RESCUE TECHNICIAN CLASS, through an organization called RESCUE 3. THE THREE DAY CLASS WAS, IN THE OLD DAYS, OFFERED DURING THE MEMORIAL DAY THREE DAY HOLIDAY, (this year) May 23, 24, and 25. Chuck actually taught the class. In a life time of river paddleing, he has also been in on several real rescues, and a few body recoveries.
    Knik River Canoes and Kayakers also has offered something similar.

    THIS CLASS WAS EXCELLENT X100. Not only did i learn many rescue techniques, I became more "water friendly-familiar" with big water. There really is a difference between being in the boat and being in the glacial water. Most important, I stopped doing some of the stuff I had previously done on glacial rivers...stuff where I was risking my life. It was truely a great class for me. Most of the students consisited of Mat-Su volunteer firefighters and rescue types.

    Later,
    Dennis
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    Default

    One thing I always tell people about the throw rope/bag is to use an underhand toss if possible, or side hand toss if it's not. Unless you've done a lot of practice with the bag an overhand toss will generally result in a very bad throw. Throw ropes/bags are not used very often for rescue situations, and almost no one has enough practice with them.

    The longer the trip the more important is is to maintain strict rules on sanitation. Last thing you want is for half of your paddlers to all come down with something disabling. Always have a couple bottles of hand sanitizer placed in strategic positions around camp so everyone is reminded.

  9. #9

    Default rescue class

    Nova and others still holds these classes and they are as said,worth every penny. I have been certified in SWR but go up every spring to participate. As Jim pointed out using a throw bag, without practice usually results in throws that miss the target. These classes cover more scenarios than you can imagine and will give most boaters insight concerning river mishaps and rescue, along with ways to avoid them.
    Do yourself a favor if you have not done so already, GO and learn.
    MO

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    Swim in the protected postion mentioned (on your back with feet in front and knees bent) for protection. Angle your backstroke at a 45 degree angle to the current towards the shore. Make sure you go toward a side with a place to get out. You don't want to angle towards a wall or cliff. You should only do this once you are out of the major rapids, until then keep your feet in front of you downstream. My 2 cents.

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    Member danattherock's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 6XLeech View Post

    Dan,
    Thanks for the reference. I ordered a copy of McGinnis's book.

    Dwight

    I just got mine in the mail the other day. It has a whole chapter on the safety talk. More info than I would have expected. Great book that is a "how to book" for river guides. Talks about interacting with clients, safety talks of course, setting up camp, etc.. A very unique book that I am sure you will enjoy.
    The two loudest sounds known to man: a gun that goes bang when it is supposed to go click and a gun that goes click when it is supposed to go bang.

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    Default Good safety thread for rafting/float newbies...

    1. Feedback: The McGinnis book is a useful reference for guides - aimed more at whitewater trips, but much useful stuff. The detailed safety talks suggest what professionals feel they need to cover after years of dealing with a wide-range of clients, but the book also contained lots of practical pointers for dealing with situations and groups - and "Guide School Exam Questions for Discussion" (p.90) which should be good this winter.

    2. Safety talk tips: Excellent suggestions, esp re: practicing with throw bag. Ak Raft/Kayak offers a bag with higher strength rope, which I figured might double as extra rope if we ever need to pull raft off an obstacle. 2 yrs ago, the overloaded cataraft in our group got high centered in a midstream rock in a rare deep (chest high) section of the Upper Gulkana. Who knew? Pull off wasn't bad with plenty of manpower and MUCH better than unloading gear!

    3. More tips: I would add some info from another good thread about PFDs; this one with excellent pros/cons of inflatable PFDs, a recommendation by Rsky Biz to annually test inflatable PFDs and very instructive comment by Jim about why it's better to wear rainjacket under instead of over your PFD:
    http://forums.outdoorsdirectory.com/...d.php?p=452764

    Getting psyched as August approaches . Thanks again for the experienced input.

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    Default Throw Bags

    One thing I noticed is that the throw bag technique was discussed. Throw upstream of your target because:

    1. The rope and bag floats faster than the swimmer
    2. It encourages the swimmer to swim upstream towards the rope and not downstream towards it.
    3. If it gets caught on a snag it doesn't become a hazard as the swimmer floats into it
    4. If the swimmer lets go if it because of a heavy eddy line or current, it gives them another chance to grab it as it slides across them

    If the swimmer is caught in a terminal hydraulic, behind a fall or ledge, or in a strainer hit them with it, the bag is soft and will not hurt them, it will jar them from a panic to an aware state, and it will put it right next to them so that they can grab it.

    Another safety item with ropes, I read an article from a group I used to raft with of an extreme tragedy on the middle fork where bad situations turned worse with hurried decisions caused further tragedy. Two fatalities had already occured on the river and tensions were high as it was. Multiple boat flips and gear recovery were a constant rather than an abnormality. One of the group tied a rope to a raft in a strainer and then tied the rope to his boat, he was going to ferry it to shore when his raft got sucked back into the main current, he braced for impact when the rope tightened and stayed in the boat but when the rope snapped it struck him right in the eye and exploded his eyeball and broke his eye socket, his raft was swept downstream. He somehow made it to shore and his group found him passed out on shore. NEVER tie two boats together, have a passenger that can hold the rope and let it go if necessary.

    As always, use good judgement in emergencies and never risk it all for gear. Happy boating

    Chris

  14. #14

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    Regarding point #11 about strainers: What I've been told by exprienced guides is if you see you are being carried into a strainer, the first thing to do is turn and swim across the current to avoid bing caught at all. Try to get out far enough that you will be carried past the strainer. Swim like your life depends on it, because it does! Only turn and try to climb up onto and over the strainer as a last resort if there is no possible way to avoid it.

    Another good thing to talk about is how to pull someone back into the raft. Grab them by the shoulder straps of their PFD. Then you sort of lift with your legs and fall backwards into the raft in one quick motion, pulling them up and into the raft. We had someone go over from my raft once, I manuevered the boat to reach them, and the rest of the crew used that method to pull them in. Worked like a charm. By the way, this is one good reason to make sure everyone has their PFD on really snug. I tell people it should feel just a little bit uncomfortably tight when they are standing around on the bank before we launch. Once they've had it on awhile they won't notice the snugness.

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