Rescue Series: Foot Entrapment Strategies

VideoJune 20, 2013

In Part 10 of R3: Rescue for River Runners, swiftwater rescue instructor Jim Coffey covered accessing the condition of a foot entrapment victim. Here in Part 11, he introduces foot entrapment strategies for making the rescue. It’s important to move quickly, but first we must answer two questions: do we have the skill level to perform the rescue, and is the rescue within an acceptable level of risk for the rescue team? Whether the victim has an airway or is face down in the water is also a vital part of the assessment and intensity of the rescue tempo.

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

Historically, we’ve taught that we should start a rescue with the lowest risk method first, then work our way up to higher risk techniques. Newer thinking has evolved to starting out with the most effective method, based on the decisions about our skill level and whether there’s an acceptable level of risk.

If the person who’s foot entrapped has an airway, our first priority is to stabilize them. This keeps them safe and buys us time to affect the rescue. It can be as simple as tossing them a paddle they can use to brace themselves.

If we can operate from both sides of the victim, we can get a rope across their downstream side for stabilization. Then, if we can clip the line onto them, we can pull them back upstream out of the entrapment.

If they are within 30 feet of shore it may be possible to toss a line in a horseshoe loop around them, cross the line around them and pull them back upstream.

The nightmare scenario of foot entrapment is with the subject facedown, without an airway. For any hope of saving them, action must take place swiftly and efficiently. The “paddle pull” technique is demonstrated, as well as the “hail mary” swim method.

Again, assessment needs to be made of our skill level for the rescue, and an acceptable level of risk. Swiftwater rescue training and practice are necessary if these rescues are to be possible and successful.