Swiftwater Emergencies

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 a foot of moving water over a road can sweep cars (and you!) away.
  2. Always wear your PFD (personal flotation device) and stay alert.
    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.
  4. Know the area. Scouting a river before floating it will help you avoid surprise dangers.
  5. Let someone know where you are and when you plan to return. Don’t go alone.
  6. Let someone know when you come home. This can prevent an unnecessary search.