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California Boating 

A Course for Safe Boating

Chapter 5


Accident Prevention and Rescue

To help in emergencies from the shore:




First try to reach the person. Use your hand, or anything else you

can hold onto, such as a stick, rope, towel, oar, or a fishing pole, to reach

the person. Make sure that you have a firm grip on a solid object or another

person on shore before reaching. Keep a low center of gravity by keeping

low to the ground and get ready for the weight of the person you’re rescuing

before you reach. You don’t want to be pulled into the water.




If you cannot reach the victim, throw something that will float,

such as a ring life preserver with a line attached so you can pull the person

to safety. If a ring life preserver is not available, throw any object that will

help the victim float until help arrives.




If the person is too far away and you know how to swim, you can row

out to them on something that will keep both of you afloat. For example,

you may use a small boat, raft, large inner tube or surfboard. Remember to

put on a life jacket before rowing to the victim, and carry an extra one in

case the victim needs one. Help the victim climb aboard or have him hold

onto the float while you paddle back to safety.




If you can’t reach, throw, or row, go for help or call 9-1-1. Give the

location information to lead rescuers to the emergency site.

Case Study

A family was having a picnic in late Spring on a beach next to a river. Their

ten-year old daughter was swimming in an eddy just upstream from the beach.

She suddenly found herself in the fast downstream current. The father grabbed

a loose branch from the beach and extended it toward his daughter. When

his daughter grabbed the branch the added weight pulled the father into the

swift current. They were both quickly swept downstream and out of view.

The mother quickly alerted the park ranger. The park staff was trained in

swiftwater rescue and was able to pull the father and daughter to shore. Both

sustained some bruises but were otherwise OK.


1. Identify the mistakes that the people made, and

also their proper actions.

2. What could these people have done differently to

prevent this accident?

3. What steps could you take to rescue the victims

and/or make the situation better?


You should not enter the water to

rescue someone unless you have

been trained in lifesaving skills.