In my last blog we talked about the scale of risk that we may encounter when having to effect a rescue whilst leading a group on the river, or in any other situation for that matter. In this post I explore the means and principles we can employ as leaders on a river trip to help avoid such situations occurring in the first place... C.L.A.P.

 This stands for:

  • Communication
  • Line of sight
  • Avoidance is better than cure
  • Position of maximum effectiveness

Communication: Communication is key, but don't wait until half way through a trip when an incident may occur. Start off your day with a safety briefing and by agreeing those river signals (the common ones that I use I'll come onto in a future blog post). A short five minutes introducing those signals and even practicing them on the bank side for those unaware of them could well be invaluable on the river, saving us time and potential issues later on the river.

Signals can in our environment be more useful than you think, so it's important to set some time aside in your briefing to run through them with your group, especially if they are new to your group and regularly use other signals or indeed have never used signals before.

Line of sight: Line of sight to your group is really important as a leader. It is hard to lead a group that can't see you, or who you cannot see. As a good leader you will always maintain line of site with at least one group member and make sure that the line of sight can be extended up the line of paddlers and bring into play the above principles about communication and signalling. This involves the deployment of your river running strategies which I have covered here briefly and will expand upon in future blogs.

Avoidance is better than cure: This speaks for itself really - if you can avoid an incident then that's got to be better than carrying out a rescue. If you can avoid a nasty looking hole then simply go around it.

Position of maximum effectiveness: Position for a leader is being in the best position to effectively manage your group and situation. When selecting that position consider what your group would do. If you sit below a particularly nasty hole, will your position draw them towards you and that hole or the safe route around it? If the route around it is too hard for the group to make then the most effective position would be below the hole to quickly effect a rescue. The dynamics and skill of your group will be the important determining factor here.

If, after following the above advice and you do end up with a swimmer then look first at the scale of risk in our Shout/Reach/Throw/Row/Go scale before effecting a rescue.

Happy paddling and keep safe...