Swiftwater Safety

Too many people have no idea of how to avoid dangers in moving water. Here are a few important clues:

1. If you’re not prepared, stay out! Even two feet of moving water over a road can sweep cars (and you!) away. Always wear your PFD (personal flotation device) and stay alert.

2. Go feet first (see exception in #3). If you’re floating free downstream, keeping your feet in front of you (face up) can protect you from rocks, sticks and other obstacles.  Those hidden obstacles can really hurt!

3. Watch out for strainers. Strainers are anything (a branch, a rock, a bridge post) that cuts through the water. If you get pinned against one, you may become a permanent fixture. About fifteen seconds before you reach the strainer, switch from feet first position to face first in a sort of doggie paddle. When you reach the strainer, immediately pull yourself up and over it. Get your legs clear so they won’t get sucked under, pinning you against the obstruction.

A woman drown 15 inches underwater in 2001 when she was pinned against a tree branch that had fallen across the river.  The thick branch had to actually be cut before she could be extracted.

4. Know the area. Scouting a river before floating it will help you avoid surprise dangers.

5. Let someone know where you are and don’t go alone.

6. Let someone (the same person as in #5) know when you come home. You could save 50 guys (and gals) from needlessly leaving dinner (or work or dates or their oh-so-comfortable beds). Thank you!

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