Safety day – the report

Tomorrow we will be having a first aid course, which means it’s almost two weeks ago that we had the safety day and I have not written about it yet. Unfortunately I forgot to make pictures with the practical parts, so no photos in this post. Somehow the day was so intense I only remembered my camera when walking back to the classroom.

We started off with a presentation regarding the whitewater classification and discussing some river features, like holes and waves. I will put my presentation up on slideshare later today. Another presentation regarding what you need on whitewater like gear and preparations followed.

Because the weather didn’t help, it was really too cold to get into the water, we did the practice parts on land. We started with discussing the safety gear you would take on the water, everybody had their own gear with them, which we reviewed. We discussed and trained with throwing a throw-bag, which was helpful. Good points were given, like shouting at the person that should receive the line, and to brace yourself, even if it’s just a practice session. Some of us forgot to brace or didn’t shout because it was just practice. If you train yourself, make sure you do exactly everything you need to do when it’s for real, so you don’t ingrain bad practice and forget stuff when it’s for real and important to do it right. After throwing it was time to recoil the rope and throw the bag without filling it first. It took some practice but it’s possible to throw it with almost the same precision as with the line in the bag.

Now it was time to throw at a moving object and to make it a bit more difficult, with our backs turned to the swimmer, throw-bag on the ground and unaware if you would need to save the swimmer. After some tries it became clear that this is something else and needs more practice. Throwing a rope should not be left for when you need it, but should be practiced as often as possible. Besides its a fun exercise, so I will be practicing it more often.

Getting cold it was time for another presentation regarding an accident that happened in New Zealand. A couple backpackers went for a kayak trip on a class I/II river . It goes to far to describe the whole situation here, I will look up the link to the report. They knew that there was a black rock which they wanted to scout. Because the water was higher than usual most eddy’s were not that easy. Both catched an eddy, but the first grabbed a branch, flipped and got into a strainer at the end of the eddy. They had ropes tied to the boat, the idea was that they could rescue each other if one of them went for a swim. Yep, you guessed it, this rope tangled around her feet and she was caught under water. Amazingly she escaped from this and got out and on top of the strainer. Not seeing her friend she decided to go downstream and look. Unfortunately her friend also capsized and came into the same strainer and didn’t live to tell the story. We discussed the things that went wrong, like grabbing the branch and having loose ropes on your kayak, what to do when you need to search for someone and that you always need to be serious and on your guard even on class I water. A really interesting presentation that let’s you think and realize that even on simple water things can go horribly wrong.

After lunch it was time for practice session two which dived into rope systems, using carabiners and pulleys to get a boat out of a pin. We learned about the forces on the ropes and pulleys and that you can have 1:3 systems. If you want to have the most impact, it is best to have a pulley on the boat’s end with one end of the line tied to a object and pulling on the other. Or if there is no space, redirect the angle with another pulley. An interesting primer into rescue systems, which I want to know more about, so hopefully a WhiteWater Rescue Technician course will follow.

trafficsafetyNext up was a presentation regarding how to work safely, best practices, what you can do to improve situations, to prepare for trips and a lot of other useful information and backgrounds. Some things are already normal for me, others I need to improve or just do, like having trip information, river access and phonenumbers with you.

Concluding: A really useful and interesting day that needs to be followed by a lot of practice and a WRT course.