Despite your best laid plans, everything has gone wrong and it’s time to switch to rescue mode. It’s the rescuer’s dilemma, who should you help first? Whilst every situation is different and we wouldn’t want to be too prescriptive, the general principle below can help you make the right decision.
When in a rescue situation, the acronym STVE (or STeVE) is really useful to help remember the order in which the rescue should occur.
S – Self
Remember, you are the most important member of the team. It may sound selfish but you need to sort yourself out first to ensure that you are then able to help someone in need. This also applies whilst the rescue is being carried out. Keeping yourself safe is the fundamentals of any first aid course and it applies on the water too. You’re no use if you get yourself in trouble so take some deep breaths and make a plan before jumping into rescue ranger mode.
T – team
After you are safe and in a position to be of use to others you need to ensure that the rest of your team is too. Quickly assess the situation and see who is in danger or injured and those who aren’t. Ensure that the team members who aren’t in need of a rescue or assistance are safe and in a position that they will remain safe. This means that the chance of multiple casualties is reduced but also they are then in a position to help you if needed. It could be as simple as getting other paddlers to a safe area, or rafting up together.
e – environment
Double check the environment you’re in for any other potential risks or hazards that may pose a danger to yourself or others whilst carrying out a rescue.
V – victim
Once the rest of the team is safe, it is time to deal with the victim/s in the situation. This terminology sounds dramatic but this model applies in common first aid situations and near-misses too. Whilst assisting someone in need it is important that you are constantly aware of your own safety and that of the group.
E – equipment
Remember that equipment (no matter how expensive) is replaceable and therefore is at the bottom of the priority list. Be aware there may be exceptions to this rule. How will you get back to safety if you jettison your board or paddle? It may be OK to lose your paddle on a narrow river where you can paddle back prone, but less so if you’re 500m offshore.
We recommend getting some training in safety and rescue before venturing out unguided. Knowing how to avoid situations escalating and what to do if the worst happens will increase your confidence and dramatically improve your paddling experience. Check out our popular SUP Fundamentals course or the WSA SUP Safety and Rescue Course as a starting point if you’d like to find out more.