Being swept away by a fast-flowing stream can prove to be an immensely dangerous situation.
The techniques needed to save someone from fast-flowing and often icy water need to be regularly practiced and so members of Shuswap Volunteer Search and Rescue took to a stretch of the Adams River on Sunday, May 5.
Gordon Bose, the training officer in charge of the group of Search and Rescue Volunteers who trained in the cold water of the Adams, said they try to practice swift water rescue skills a few times a year.
Dressed in dry suits and other gear to keep them warm and dry, Bose said the group of four volunteers practised wading in the swift water and accurately tossing their rescue throw bags, which are used for securing lines to the opposite bank of a stream.
They also practised a tethered swimmer rescue, in which one volunteer plays the role of a person swept into the river while another, attached by a quick-release belt to a tether, tries to save them. Once the rescuer has a grasp on the subject they can be pulled into shore.
“Once that rescuer grabs the subject there is a tremendous amount of force on that rope; it takes two people to control it,” Bose said.
Bose said Shuswap Search and Rescue Volunteers are called to emergencies where their swift water rescue skills might come in handy between one and three times a year; often those calls are as mutual aid for neighbouring search and rescue organizations. One such call came on Friday, May 3 when SAR volunteers assisted with the search for a man who fell into the North Thompson River in Kamloops.
The man who fell in the river, a 23-year-old university student, drowned; his body was recovered.
“Some of these skills we don’t need to use on task very frequently, but in the event we do need to use them we need to be relatively sharp with those skills,” Bose said.
Although they didn’t practise it this weekend, basic paddling with an inflatable kayak is another skill which comes in handy in a swift water rescue. Bose said floating down river in a kayak is a useful technique for searching areas with a river running through them.
Bose said those who spend any amount of time near fast-flowing rivers and streams should be aware of the power water has. He noted the water the search and rescue volunteers trained in on Sunday was flowing with enough force to sweep a person away even at knee depth. The water was cold enough that it could be felt through dry suits and other protective gear. Bose said a person who fell into the water in ordinary clothes would soon find themselves without the energy to swim for shore.
Groups including Rescue Canada and Raven Rescue offer a variety of swift-water awareness and rescue courses, often taken by river guides and government employees who spend a lot of time on fast-flowing water. Bose said he took a swift-water course when he was a recreational kayaker and found it useful information for staying safe on the water.
-With Files From Kamloops This Week