Four principles of safety to guide leadership and incident management on the water:

  • Communication
  • Line of Sight
  • Avoidance is better than cure
  • Position of maximum usefulness


Can you communicate with other paddlers in your group? Are your signals simple and agreed?

  • Make signals and briefings clear and concise.
  • Do not make assumptions.
  • Point out the safe line.
  • Confirm understanding by repeating back the signal.

Line of Sight

Can you see a safe route to the next stopping point? Can you see all the group?

  • Never run anything blind: you can only assess the risks that you see.
  • All members of the group should remain in line of sight of at least one other member of the group.

Avoidance is Better than Cure

Could you avoid a situation by prior preparation? What if?

  • Prior preparation and planning prevent poor performance.
  • Appropriate group control and group awareness.
  • Clean profile - no loops, knots etc to snag in moving water.
  • Assess the risks - never put your boat where your mind has not already been.
  • Preach, reach, throw, tow, go (and for the RSPCA shoot!)
  • Nothing a rescuer does should put the victim in a worse situation.
  • Teach and practice rescues before they are needed (rescuer and rescuee).

Position of Maximum Usefulness

Should you be between the group and the danger? Where should you position yourself to control the group/ rescue? Are you safe? Is your group safe?

  • Position yourself to ensure good communication.
  • Position yourself to manage or prevent the most likely incident.
  • You are most effective when you are safe.
  • Then consider the safety of your group.
  • Finally attend to your victim.

First published April 2008