Previous to now in this ‘Principles Of Safety’ series I spoke about the mnemonic CLAP and how utilising it can really help minimize incidents on the river. But there are times when things don’t go 100% to plan.
It’s in moments like this when we have to preform a rescue, when quick decisive action is needed, we need to prioritise the order of what we do next. A snappy and effective rescue can turn a would be nasty situation in to something you can laugh about and high five with your mates at the take out.
You can apply the STIG order of rescue to any rescue situation, it’s an invaluable tool when the pressure comes on and you’ve got to help your mates out.
Above all else you have to ensure your own safety above all else, you are no use to anyone if you also get in trouble. Think ‘Could what has just happened to the victim happen to me if I rush in to this?’. Once you are safe you can then get to figuring out what the safest and quickest way to carry out a rescue.
Make sure the rest of your crew are safe, just like the previous point you don’t want to add extra casualties to situation. Things can get rapidly out of hand if you don’t keep your team within their comfort zone, this means they need to be in an environment that is unlikely to get them into difficulty or cause them injury, even in the event of a capsize. That environment will be different depending on your groups ability. You team members will have different skills to aid in rescue, you should manage and use your team to help in the rescue, while ensuring their safety. At no stage should you place a team member out of their comfort zone during a rescue.
As far as reasonably practicable line of sight needs to be maintained throughout the rescue, this includes up and downstream of the rescue. If numbers allow try keep line of sight with the gear. Going back to what we said before ‘Never run anything blind’, this does chance in a rescue scenario. Do not run anything blind to carry out a rescue, you risk not being able to see further hazards and potentially need rescuing yourself only you have no back up.
This is the hero moment lots of people can’t wait for, a chance to clip on to a rope and dive in to save their friends. Arguably it’s the most important part of the STIG system. As we improve our skills & experience there are certain circumstances where the STIG principle can be carried out simultaneously by efficient non contact rescues with the individual and team while beginning the gear rescue and maintaining self safety. Simply this means that In a rescue you can talk to the individual and the team at the same time to ensure both are getting to safety, this are referred to as ‘non contact’ rescues.
As with all rescues we use the Systematic approach to rescue. Talk, Reach, Throw, Row, Go, Helo. This can be applied to any situation and when you know and understand the sequence it’s invaluable when the pressure comes on. You need to be cautious about committing to a contact if the team safety isn’t in place.
Maintaining line of sight is paramount throughout the rescue, line of sight with the team and individual should not be compromised for the sake for equipment. Gear should be abandoned to maintain the line of sight with the team and individual.
Once the rescue is completed and all parties are accounted for you can then recover equipment. I would advise recovering paddles before boats if possible, the reason is they are easier to lose than boats. You have to be aware there are other implications aside for financial ones for ensuring swift recovery of kit. A lost boat / boats can commit you and your group to a long walk out and the resulting risk of exposure.
STIG for me is a really useful tool, it one of the things when I teach it on an RSR course I know people really take to because it’s simple and effective. I’m aware it’s a thing I keep referring to but I can’t impress enough how important to practice your rescue skills so that when you need them they come as second nature.
Before I go I can’t talk about STIG without saying something about self rescue. If you’ve seen my recent swim video you’ll know how passionate I am about the importance of being able to handle yourself in case you find yourself swimming with no bank rescue.
Don’t be driftwood
- You are the best person to positively effect the out come of swim like this.
- Be pro active, don’t be driftwood getting swept down river out of control.
- It doesn’t matter how tired, unset or sore you are, if you don’t hustle and help yourself things will be a whole lot worse.
- Don’t lose your shit, seriously being a bag of panic and nerves ain’t going to help you here. Keep a clear mind and act fast.
As always reading books and blog post like this are not a replacement for practice or experience and are certainly don’t take the place of getting some training formally & informally from someone suitable qualified / capable. However when you understand the Principles of Safety and the part they play in white water paddling you will be far better able to look after yourself and your mates.White Water Safety & Rescue by Franco Ferrero is a great bit of reference material and an ideal stocking filler, get on to you Wife, Husband, Boyfriend or Girlfriend to get it for Christmas for you.