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Rescue Film Series: Ep. 6: The Rescue Harness

The quick-release harness on a rescue PFD is an important advancement in swiftwater safety. It allows you to more safely tow a canoe or kayak and to perform “live bait” rescues in which the rescuer jumps into the water to pull a paddler to safety. In Episode 6 of Rescue for River Runners, swiftwater rescue expert Jim Coffey shows you how to safely and effectively use the quick-release rescue harness on your life jacket.

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

The integrated quick-release harness has really contributed to the increased efficiency and success of swiftwater rescue. It gives the benefit of being able to be fixed to a line or a rescued boat, while also being able to cut yourself loose if it gets dangerous.

There are a number of different ways you can thread the harness webbing; each way affecting the friction on the webbing and how easily it will release. The most friction is achieved by threading the webbing through the front of the metal triglide and the back of the triglide, then through the plastic buckle. Most rescue life jackets have the instructions printed on the inside of the jacket.

Some lighter weight people may find that this “official” method of threading makes it hard for them to break free. In that case, they can try threading though only one-half of the triglide. For some rescues, like towing a boat, you might want to further decrease the friction by totally bypassing the triglide and going directly to the buckle.

It’s important to practice with the different threading methods to find out what works best for you in various situations. You need to be ready to react positively with the gear when a rescue is critical.

Live-bait rescue has been made possible by the quick-release harness. It allows the rescuer to leap out and swim to the victim and make direct contact. However, if things get dangerous, they can free themselves from the line.