Building Skills in Water Rescue
Sharing thoughts on the Swiftwater Rescue Technician course.
With the aim of extending the Team's water capabilities, I undertook Rescue 3's 'Swift Water Rescue Technician' course last month.
Being November, the water was suitably cold, but as some fellow team members are booked in for January and February for their respective courses, I’d better not make too much of that!
We spent the first weekend mainly on theory – especially learning that weir’s were the devil incarnate. This set us up nicely for the second weekend, when we were put in a weir to feel what it was like to be ‘held’ in the water. Obviously this was all done in controlled conditions. Our group also comprised team members from Dartmoor Rescue Group (DRG) and Devon Cave Rescue Organisation (DCRO), so it was a good opportunity to get to know others with watery tendencies in the South West region.
The course covered a huge range of theory as well as practical techniques, from being able to read a rivers’ hydraulics to calculating mechanical advantage using the 'T method'. Putting this into practice in the waters of the River Dart was the real test. The key issue was dodging the myriad of canoeists while doing a tethered wedge, which made for interesting spaghetti across the channel. So much to remember as the noise of the rapids swirled by...
Always operate a clean rope system (no knots), stand downstream of any line, feet up/hips up when swimming, get the right angle to ferry-glide across the river, call numbers in and out of the water, are upstream and downstream backup in place? And so on. Vernon and Steve from Rescue 3 admirably led our group of twelve through all of this and more.
The key things that I learnt from the course are that water is to be ultimately respected, and even at seemingly harmless flow levels the forces involved can be immense. Now I just have to practice it to make it automatic, so lots more opportunity to experience the wet stuff.