Rafting Kayaking and Camping Safety
Safety is one of the most important elements in ensuring an enjoyable and safe trip. How this works depends on the size of your group and the conditions of the area you’ll be hiking or camping in, or the river you’ll be on.
River Connection recommends a complete run-through for everyone. This can be done humorously and is a good way to introduce yourself to boaters and not scare the novices among them.
Safety Talk – River Points to Cover
* Agree on hand signals that will be used on the water. They may vary between groups to difrferentiate between several 3-5 raft teams .
* Keep a boat in front and rear view at all times. If you do not see the boat behind you, stop and wait for the boat to catch up. Doing this will alert you to possible emergencies quickly, where seconds can be the difference between life and death
* Agree on who runs lead and who runs sweep. Who is safety in the middle, and how to space the boats.
* Talk about how to handle a swimmer (man overboard scenerio).
* Talk about rescue set up at major rapids.
* Who has the rescue gear.
* Where are the First Aid kits located.
* Talk about the use of throw Bags, every boat should have at least one.
Safety on the River
* The best policy is to wear your life jacket at all times when on the water. Emergency situations can develop at any time. Make sure your personal flotation device or PFD is properly fastened and adjusted.
* Attach a whistle to your life jacket as a signaling device.
* Wearing a helmet while scouting rapids is absolutely essential
* Animals need a life jacket also, they cannot swim any better than you can in whitewater.
* Whether you’re in an oar or paddle boat, pay attention to the boat captain. The Captain is the one in charge and will be depending on you to follow directions quickly.
* When signaling another boat about an obstacle point to the clear path, not to the obstacle.
* Protect your feet by keeping your shoes or sandals on while you are on the water. Wearing the protection can save your feet in an emergency.
* Always keep your ropes neatly stowed. Getting tangled up in loose ropes and straps can be very dangerous. Do not tie yourself into the boat or tie a line around yourself. You may need to get free in a flip situation.
* Self rescue is a valuable skill to have when you have been thrown out of the boat. Unusually presents two choices, if you’re close to the boat and a strong swimmer, you may be able to swim quickly to the boat and get pulled back in. If you’re separated from the boat or in big whitewater, you may have to get through the rapid first. A properly fitted life jacket will allow you to turn on your back pointing your feet downstream. This allows you to see what’s coming and to push off rocks and obstacles with your feet, rather than hitting your head.
* In a rescue situation, save the people first and worry about equipment later. If you are tossed from a paddle boat or a kayaker, hang onto your paddle if possible; it can be extended out to the boat to help pull you back to it. If the paddle is interfering with your swimming and ability to self-rescue, let go of it and take care of yourself.
*Always secure your boat and yourself before attempting any rescue, you might just have more in trouble if you don’t. Never float downstream from your boat, this creates the danger of being crushed between the boat and an obstacle.
* If you are swimming through whitewater, breathe at the top of the wave, and hold your breath when the waves breaks over you.
*If the boat flips, protect your head from hard objects like frames and oars. If you come up under the raft, get out from under it, preferably on the upstream side. You can always get air by pushing up on the raft floor. Use your hands and feet against the raft floor to find direction. Travel in one direction until you are out from under the boat. If possible, climb on the flipped boat and help right it. If you are separated from the boat, float on your back and make your way to shore or another boat. In all swimming situations, keep your feet up to avoid foot entrapment.
* Strainers and Logs – Finding your self swimming can be very dangerous. Approaching the strainer or log flip on your stomach, swim hard and get on top of the obstacle. If you go under it, there’s extreme danger of getting trapped underwater.
* High Side – means just that get to the high side of the boat. The side nearest the rock is where you want to be. Transferring the weight quickly is of up most importance. The water can pile up on the upstream side, force of the moving water will wrap the boat against the rock.
* Keep your legs inside the boat at all times to avoid getting them crushed between the boat and rocks or other obstacles.
* Never tie the rope to yourself use another person or tree as a back up. Know how to hold the rope if you’re the one being rescued 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 downstream into a safe area. Never try to pull a person cross current.
* Plenty of sun protection and water for hydration are very important.
Safety Off the Water
* Many accidents occur when getting out of the boat and scouting the rapids. River rocks are often covered with moss and slippery. Take your time when scouting; many times there is no trail, just climbing over the rocks or brush. Always wear foot protection.
* If there are poisonous snakes in the area, be careful where you put your hands and feet. Check under things picking them up slowly especially under your tent. Check shoes and bedding for insects, spiders, scorpions etc prior to using or wearing them.
* Know what poison ivy/oak looks like so you can avoid it. If you have dogs on the trip wash them in the river, with soap when you know they have been into it. Getting the oil off you and the animal can make all the difference in how bad you react to it.
* Side-hikes, carry a first aid kit, water, be sure to tell others where you are going. Never hike or swim alone.