Emergency PreparednessSurvival Tools

Your 5 Step Guide to Escaping Disaster by Water

If the roads are out or overcrowded, the best way to make it to a safe position may be by water.

While land travel can be an efficient way to transport people and supplies, roads and trails are subject to degradation and damage over time. For some people, a body of water can be the optimal way of travel. However, aquatic travel can be incredibly dangerous, and proper precautions must be taken to avoid injury and death in the event of something going wrong. In this article, we’ll discuss planning a water escape. In part two, we’ll go over the types of watercraft you can use and where those craft excel.

Have a Plan
If you live near a body of water, check to see if it provides a path to your desired destination in the event of a disaster. Have maps of the area that detail your route and hazards you may encounter.

Remember that conditions can change in a heartbeat on the water. Gather as much knowledge as you can about flows and tides on your body of water. Rivers will have different flows for different seasons, which can pose new hazards as the depths rise and fall.

Start troubleshooting after planning your route. Are there points where things could fail? Are there alternate routes to dangerous areas? Keep in mind that on some rivers, there may be areas that you won’t be able to navigate on the water. In these cases, mark portages on your maps.

Prepare Your Equipment
Your first priority in preparing a water escape after planning should be to make sure you have the necessary safety equipment. A properly fitting life jacket is essential and will be instrumental to your survival should your watercraft capsize or if you are forced to evacuate. If possible, try to find one that has pockets on the front. Be sure that you keep a signal whistle, light source and cutting tool on your life vest. A white water helmet may also be necessary for your route.

Keep sensitive items in waterproof containers or bags. Keep your maps in waterproof sheets that you can secure to yourself.

Make sure you have the tools and materials to repair your watercraft should it be damaged. Dents, scrapes and holes are especially prevalent in river travel, where craft can hit rocks and other hazards while traveling over rapids.

The type of watercraft you choose will also make a difference in how you travel across a body of water. We’ll go over these in part two.

Physical Fitness
Anyone traveling by water should be capable of swimming to shore.  Be sure you can swim at least 500 yards using breaststroke or sidestroke as well as tread water for five minutes. Although you should always wear a life jacket, keeping yourself fit will help ensure your ability to survive out on the water.

Rehearse
Take your watercraft and travel your route to your desired destination. If you have a GPS, use tracking to show your route in relation to your maps. When traveling, remember to take your time. Too much haste can lead to mistakes, which can lead to injury or worse.

After your run through, troubleshoot again. Check where your plan failed or encountered difficulties. Travel your route again and continue to troubleshoot until you feel comfortable. When in an actual escape, having the muscle memory and familiarity with your route will help you overcome stress and ultimately ensure that you arrive at your destination safely.

Don’t go Alone
Water escapes should not be done alone. Having a partner or team will help you cross water quickly and will also be able to assist you in case of emergencies.

 

 

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Rick Lindfors

Rick Lindfors

Rick Lindfors joined the Shadow Fox team in June 2015. He is a member of Eugene Mountain Rescue, a specialized team in the Lane County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue Program. Rick also spent several years as a professional snowboard instructor and was a captain of the University of Oregon Freestyle Ski and Snowboard Team.

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