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Safety at practices

We practice on the cold waters of Lake Revelstoke, at Martha Creek Provincial Park. Wind and rain can appear suddenly from behind the mountains next to the lake, and large waves can build quickly down the length of the lake. There is no rescue capability as we do not have a spotting boat, and campers at the campground may not notice us or they may be unable to carry out a rescue. There is no cell phone service in the area, and there is a poor or non-existent route along the shoreline to return to the campground.

In the nine seasons that we have practiced on the lake we have only once had an unsafe situation – a sudden storm blew up large waves that came side-on to the boat as we crossed the lake to the wharf. This indicates that we are being suitably cautious and also that we have been lucky.

  • Thinking through the risks we are exposed to as individuals and as a team will help us to avoid mishap.
  • The information included below addresses some of the risks and situations we may encounter at our practices, and proposes ways to lessen those risks.

 

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Actions for individuals

The water is very cold and members have different swimming abilities.

  • Always wear PFD in the boat.
  • Check that your seat mate’s PFD is fastened correctly. Can you lift them by the shoulders? This is how we lift people back into the boat.
  • Membership form will have a checkbox for a person to indicate that they can swim 50 m in cold water while wearing a PFD.

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Team members become chilled during or after practice.

  • Wear appropriate hat and clothing in the boat.
  • Extra clothing is left in the cars.
  • Drivers to consider keeping a blanket in their car.
  • Team members know how to recognize hypothermia.

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Team members have health issues that may arise during practice.

  • Bring medications on the boat if appropriate.
  • Let the coach and captain know if you have a health issue.
  • Nobody under the influence of alcohol is allowed in the boat.

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In an emergency can we find each other or call for help?

  • Leave a good quality whistle in your PFD pocket.
  • Tell campground host that if they hear whistles, we are in trouble.

 

General safety during practice

Are there enough paddlers to control the boat?

  • We do not launch unless we have at least 10 experienced paddlers.
  • Team members are to call or text Elmer at 250-837-1236 (cell) if they cannot come to practice.

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If we lose people in a mishap, how many people are we looking for?

  • Coach takes attendance at the Frontier parking lot.
  • All paddlers notice how many people are in the boat when we launch.
  • Paddlers know name of their paddling partner (“buddy”).
  • Front seat people are “buddies” to coach.
  • Back seat people are “buddies” to steersperson.

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The boat is tippy as people change seats, and the wind can blow us around when we need to be still.

  • Brace the boat with a fist-hold on the paddle.
  • Hold for drift, check, etc. commands are practiced regularly.
  • Continue to perform commands until we are told to stop.

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Can we maneuver the boat in difficult conditions? 

  • Team regularly practices the commands to maneuver the boat.
  • Team responds to commands quickly despite distractions.
  • Team continues with a command until they are told to stop.
  • Team can maneuver boat without a steersperson.

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Are we are compliant with Coast Guard regulations and do we have appropriate safety gear?

  • Checklist of what should be in the boat and emergency bag: Bailer, throw rope, first aid kit, “stirrup” rope, recent membership list (contains emergency contact info). Could also include a Bic lighter and a cube of firestarter in a Ziploc bag, in case we need a fire to warm up on shore.
  • Steersman checks for these items at start of practice, and ensures the pack is clipped on to the boat.
  • Team knows what is in the emergency bag.
  • Team attempts to bring emergency bag to shore if we abandon the boat.

 

Rescue procedures

What if someone goes overboard?

  • Coach or steersperson directs the rescue. Another designated person is prepared to direct rescue if coach and steersperson are both overboard.
  • Team maneuvers the boat, uses the throw line if needed.
  • Rope stirrup is out.
  • Team leans out of boat for balance, and braces as person is lifted in.

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What if our steersperson goes overboard?

  • Secondary steersman takes the rudder; OR, people in last seat pull the rudder into the boat.
  • Coach or secondary steersman controls the rescue.
  • Team can maneuver the boat without a steersman operating rudder.

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If we capsize do we stay with the boat or head for shore?  What if multiple people are in the water?

  • If the boat is unmanageable (e.g., conditions are too poor for remainder of people in the boat to effect rescue) the decision could be made to the abandon boat.  Find your buddy and then swim for shore.
  • The lake water is very cold and it could be hours before a rescue craft arrives, if it is even possible to arrange for a rescue craft.
  • Emergency pack is to come to shore, if it can be retrieved.

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What happens after we swim to shore?

  • Whistle and call until all of team is accounted for (know your “buddy”).
  • Look for and attend to injuries. Get warm – light a fire?
  • Designates hike up to the road or to campground and flag down help. Know what kind of help you are looking for.
  • Team gathers at the assembly point: Campground picnic shelter.
  • A person is designated to keep track of names, e.g.,  if someone leaves early for medical help or waits in a car instead of the shelter.

 

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