had a great post on the Boatertalk forum that brings up some key
rescue points:

Avoiding rescues (in part, by knowing where your boat should be and
being able to put in there) is much better than performing rescues.

Self rescue is your first line of defense — keep trying, never give
up. Paddling with a group is your second line of defense. Even so,
your group may not be able to reach you in a timely fashion (i.e.,
while you’re still breathing).

Learning the physical skills to perform in a rescue happens MUCH
earlier than learning when and how to apply them in a specific
situation. To my knowledge, no one has figured out a magic way to
teach how to act when bad stuff happens. Trainers from the military,
fire, EMS, police…. organizations have all sought out ways to make
this training easier, and the only effective method they have found
is practice. Even then, there is no perfect way to predict how
someone will react.

4) Some people instinctively do the right thing
in a rescue. Many people can be taught to do the right thing. Some
never get it.

Good judgment comes from experience.

Experience comes from bad judgment. When somethinggoes bad, it’s
worth the time to go back and figure out what happened, how to avoid
it in the future, and how you might have reacted differently. Reading
through Charlie Walbridge’s accident reports is a thoroughly
depressing, but very worthwhile, activity. Looking over other
people’s bad experiences helps you learn from them, without suffering
their consequences. Debriefing your own rescues with an independent
person is a great exercise — an outside eye may see things you
missed, and help you do better in the future. Tunnel vision is a real
problem in rescue situations, and an outside uninvolved eye can help
you see things you might have missed.

Scenarios are an excellent way to practice and develop your “rescue
sense”. The ACA recently developed a scenario based rescue
class. The outline should be on their website (acanet.org) soon, and
classes should start being offered within the next year. Compare how
often you execute an eddy turn to how often you carry out a rescue —
it’s no wonder that eddy turns happen without thought, and rescues
seem to be a cluster ####!

Position helps in a rescue. Once you’re downstream of a victim, it’s
hard to get back up to them. If you’re upstream of them, you can see
the event evolving and can often start moving to help before the
badness actually happens.

Take care of yourself and don’t make the situation worse. Before you
leap in, take a few seconds and develop a plan — preferably one
that minimizes the likelihood of harm to you, your team and the
victim. A successful rescue is one where (a) you go home in the same
(or better) condition that you left it, and (b) you can sleep with a
clear conscience when you review your actions. Bad outcomes don’t
always mean you did something wrong. Your first priority has to be
taking care of yourself. Recognize what you can and can’t do, based
on your skills and location. If you’re downstream and can’t reach the
victim, you can be downstream safety. If your boating skills aren’t
adequate to safely rescue a person, maybe you can go after the boat
or paddle. If you’re on a river at the very limits of your skill,
maybe your best bet is staying out of the way and not becoming
another victim.

home messages:

Take care of yourself.
II. Recognize and avoid hazards.
Think before you act.
IV. Practice your skills so you can use
them when you need them.

Robin Pope

The Eddy Line, August 2005

Adapted from a posting to the CCC email list.