Mandatory Safety Equipment/Adverse Weather Procedure
Our club has a good safety record but that does not mean we cannot reduce the probability of incidents still further. It is considered prudent to expand the information in the documents Trip Considerations and Kit List (Nov 08) and Touring Requirements and Abilities (April 09) to give clear instruction on what must be carried on day/multi day expeditions both at sea and on fresh water lochs. The following is recommended practice for all except close inshore training and short paddles under instruction. All individuals are expected to carry yachting type coastal flares of the hand held design; 1 x red, 1 x orange smoke as a minimum. A red 350 metre parachute flare is also recommended for ‘regulars’. A whistle and head torch/strobe must also be carried together with spare clothing (unless wearing a dry or wet suit) as a matter of course. The hand flares, whistle and torch/strobe must be carried in or attached to the buoyancy aid.
Other pieces of kit that regulars should consider obtaining in due course are;
VHF radio – for kayakers the submersible type is probably best. Guidance and training in their use can be arranged as necessary. Waterproof radios are available around £90 and submersible around £150. VHF hand held does not have a long range but can be invaluable in situations where shore stations, other vessels or aircraft are in reasonable proximity. They also receive weather broadcasts where location is favourable to reception.
Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) – The title says it all and is only for use in situations of dire emergency since once it is triggered, reception via satellite is virtually guaranteed and the resulting response is automatic i.e. emergency services are scrambled. The devices work anywhere in the world and there is a registration scheme for owners. One of the best and cheapest for our purpose is the McMurdo Fastfind 210 Personal Locator Beacon with GPS (transmit only) at a cost of £200. The device weighs 150grm, has a battery life of 5 years and transmits on a monitoring and a homing frequency with GPS position transmitted to increase response speed, hence the name. The alternative to an EPIRB is SPOT (see Geoff) at around £90 plus annual subscription of £90.
Strobe Light – a waterproof strobe light. Example is the ACR C-Strobe with a visibility of 2 miles in all directions on 2 x AA batteries at a cost of £23.
Tow Line – Suitable for sea use. These can be fixed permanently to a kayak or fastened round the waist of the paddler.
It is the responsibility of every individual to remain in close proximity to leader/group in poor conditions to enable communication. This is fundamental to risk reduction and response to any casualty situation. In conditions where spoken communication is difficult or impossible it is proposed to use two whistle signals.
One long blast: Meaning – You are too far away from me.
Action – Close up (or wait if someone has dropped back)
Two long blasts: Meaning – I have (or have seen) a problem.
Action – All go to assist
Where a member of a group cannot for whatever reason carry on paddling (two whistle blasts), the first action of the group, will be to close up to the casualty and either support and tow or, if there is sufficient sea room, raft up to consider/agree actions. Appropriate actions may vary but scenarios will be discussed in training. Handling/rescue of an unconscious (or otherwise unable to participate) casualty will be added to the self-rescue and buddy rescue requirements in the pool and open water.
It is quite possible that having purchased some of the above equipment you will never use it because your skill and judgement have kept you safe. That is exactly what is intended. If however you are involved in an incident you may well be grateful that you are fully kitted up.