There have been a couple of occasions in recent weeks when I’ve thought about my friend Steve. He’s always with me on the water, sitting there in the background and ready to step in when needed. Steve does a great job in making me stop and think about my plan of action when something unexpected happens and he can do the same for you too. Yes, you’ve guessed, Steve isn’t a real person, he’s an acronym!
Most paddlers are first introduced to Steve on the Foundation Safety & Rescue Training course. Steve (or STeVE as the PowerPoint will often show it) is a basic incident management tool giving us a protocol to establish priorities. And our first priority is of course our Self, not the person in trouble. If that sounds counter-intuitive bear in mind that if we compromise our own safety not only may we be unable to help anyone else but we may need help our self. So priority number one is always to check we’re in a good position to take control of the situation and remain so.
So now we can deal with the person in trouble, right? Wrong! Our second priority is the rest of the group we’re paddling with, the Team (the Te in our acronym). We already have one person needing help, we don’t want more! In many instances an instruction to the team to stop and wait further instructions is all that is required. On moving water, directing the team to the bank may be appropriate. On any wind-affected water having the team face into wind and hold ground will keep them in touch with the incident whereas rafting up is likely to see them blown down-wind faster than you can say ‘stay there!
Once you and the team are safe you can formulate the rest of your plan and assist the person who’s in trouble; for the sake of our acronym, the Victim. If you can it’s often preferable to ask another competent paddler to give whatever assistance may be required – freeing them from a tree or some other form of entrapment, being rescued and put back into their boat – leaving you to occupy the rest of the team.
Our last priority is Equipment – boats broached against obstacles, loose paddles, hats etc – where again a competent paddler or, if now sorted, the victim can play their part.
Self, Team, Victim, Equipment. If we take Steve with us whenever we go afloat we’ll be in a good place to deal safely and effectively with any incident. He’s my good friend, make him yours too!