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Rescue for River Runners: Ep. 2: Team Strategy

Smart teamwork and preparedness make everyone safer on the river. In part two of our Rescue for River Runners series, NRS ambassador Jim Coffey shows you the basics. R3: Rescue for River Runners goes beyond the basics to cover all aspects of the swiftwater rescue playbook. Jim Coffey is a renowned safety expert, and the information is presented clearly and filmed in realistic locations and scenarios.

From our lawyers: The series is a supplement to, not a substitute for, hands-on training classes.

River running is safest as a group activity. Teamwork is a key to making sure everyone gets safely to the takeout. This video outlines the parts of a strategy for ensuring success.

Gear you need to have includes first aid supplies, rescue equipment, spare or breakdown paddles, food and water appropriate for the trip, and some survival supplies in case you get stranded overnight.

You’ll want to evaluate the skills and preparedness of the group members. This is easy if you’ve paddled together before. If you haven’t, you can check things like how well folks roll, how many questions they ask, do they seem confident or hesitant. Asking questions of new members may seem intrusive, but knowing capabilities is important for group safety. And more experienced paddlers need to keep track of the less skilled, to check whether they’re getting cold, tired or spooked.

It’s good to set up the order of proceeding down the river before pushing off. Put two experienced boaters at the head of the group. Then one can post on river right below a rapid and the other on river left, for help if needed. And have a skilled paddler run sweep.

Know the conditions, flow levels, etc before you go and scout anything the group is unfamiliar with. It’s also good to figure out evacuation routes in case of emergencies. Make sure everyone knows the same whistle and hand signals. And remember, always “point positive,” to the place you want folks to go.

Follow these guidelines and you’re setup to have a successful run!