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  • Phil Keetley

Reflecting on the Sea Safety Course

Updated: Jun 27, 2019

We have just finished our second Sea Safety Week. It was a hugely successful week; full on, fun and with huge amounts of learning, by both the students and the staff! I remain convinced that this is one of the most comprehensive training courses available for the intermediate sea kayaker. That is a bold statement I know, but let me explain...

Would you know what to do next?  Injured casualty in the sea.

We start the course by discussing leadership, followership, leadership failures and guiding. This is a led discussion, but based on genuine experience, neuroscience and research, and everyone has something relevant to contribute. This sets us up with structures and systems to manage an incident - any incident. We then start our Rescue Emergency Care 1st aid course, (Level 3 with enhance skills).

REC 1st Aid Training

Highly practical and jargon free, we aim to get the basics right and provide the confidence and skills to assess, treat and monitor casualties over protracted periods of time. The scenario based exercises become increasingly complicated and we add extra environmental pressures as we go. The medical and injury incidents provide the start point to apply the leadership skills. We do this in a non-judgemental and hugely supportive way; this is not an assessment, this is training. Our instructors have decades of military, police and civilian experience of real life-threatening incidents. This is not some macho test, but a supportive and inclusive attempt to really help train people to be better medics and leaders. Our staff provide the casualties, allowing participants maximum time hands on with injured people.

Detailed sea kayak rescue practise

We spend a morning on rescue practise, really getting the detail of numerous rescues right. Deep water, cold water; swimmer; hand of god; and some you probably haven't seen before. This session builds skills and confidence and ensures that everyone has a toolbox of rescues at their disposal to suit the situation and the conditions; there is no one way to rescue. We finish the day with some more first aid and incident management scenarios, now in full context of the marine environment.

Primary survey and vital signs recording on the beach

Rafted sea kayak tow - checking vital signs on the move

Another session is spent on the intricacies of towing, doing first aid whilst in a rafted tow; managing spinal injuries in the sea and casualty handling.

Managing a possible spinal injury in the sea

We then switch focus to looking at Sea Survival. This is a unique course, distilling our knowledge of cold water shock, immersion hypothermia and safety and rescue. You can gain a wee preview video here. This ends with a practical session where you are out on the sea, alone, out of your boat and unable to self-rescue (due to cold, injury, extreme conditions etc), where you practise your 'firing sequence' enabling you to maximise the chances of rescue. Whilst a worst case scenario, the focussed training on firing flares, using PLBs, VHF radios and other signalling and survival techniques just could make the difference.

Sea survival position - calling for help, PLB deployed.

Whilst some folk are out trying to survive the savage sea, the rest are learning how to build emergency shelters, lights fires (without matches), and get the long term casualty management sorted. We use real radios to practise MAYDAY calls and provide a lecture on the practical aspects of VHF use that isn't really covered anywhere else.

Emergency shelters and casualty care

At this point we try and bring the entire learning together, and run incidents at sea over a protracted period. You will be required to complete the technical rescue of a casualty in the water, deliver an immediate primary assessment at sea, and then set up a tow to get everyone to the safest location. As the tow takes place, make an effective MAYAY call, then manage the casualty in to an emergency shelter, monitor the vital signs, and treat the injuries found. Eventually, you prepare for a rescue, perhaps by helicopter - preparing the kit and boats and being prepared to handover the casualty in a professional manner to a medic.

The course is run from a couple of locations, each providing accommodation and easy access to the beach so that we are able to transition from focussed coaching on the sea to warm coffee and reflection in the classroom! This really focused coaching approach supports rapid skill development.

I made a bold statement at the start of this post, but I genuinely do not know where else the training is as realistic. We pride ourselves in pragmatic realism and creating a supportive environment. We always have small numbers and three members of staff including at least one female coach. We have had some great reviews of this course, which you can read on our Facebook page here.

If you like the look of our unique course, we are running the next Sea Safety Week from 8 - 12th October 2018 from Anglesea Outdoors, Anglesea, North Wales. Do get in touch - we hope to see you out on the sea somewhere soon.

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