Fire companies, police, and other professional first responders use a heavy weight formal Incident Command System or Unified Command.  For background on this approach, refer to:

In whitewater boating, we haven't the vast number of resources nor the set-up time to approach rescues in this manner.  That said, there's a a great deal we can all learn from this well tested approach.  Some key attributes of ICS are structure and great communication.  One way to describe this approach is looking at various ICS roles we would commonly see in river rescues.

ICS Leader

The ICS Leader often has the most experience on the team.  Major responsibilities are:

  • Planning
  • Oversight
  • Providing Direction
  • Monitoring Assets
  • Communication with outside agencies (may be delegated)

To increase chances of success, the ICS Leader shouldn't be involved in the rescue itself.  It's very difficult (often immpossible) to be hands on and maintain overview of the entire operation (rescue) at the same time.

ICS Safety Officer

The individual in charge of group safety also has an oversight role.  In ideal situations, this individual is also hands off so they can view the entire rescue scene for potential safety issues.  Here are a few of this role's responsibilities:

  • Upstream safety - Ideally out of sight of the incident scene to avoid being distracted.  This individual needs to be vocal and persistent at preventing others from entering the accident scene.
  • Downstream Safety - This may be a mix of persons in boats and persons with throw bags on either or both shores.
  • Eyes on boths sides of the accident site.
  • Monitor equipment usage.
  • Continually scan the entire rescue scene for potentially unsafe practices intervening when necessary.

ICS Rescue Lead

This is often a team (or multiple teams: Plan A, Plan B, etc.).  Usually one individual is assigned a lead role.  This is very much a hands on role.  They determine the plan and direct everyone towards achieving that plan.  

ICS - Other roles

  • Rigger - Set's up more complex systems like Mechanical Advantage or cinches in some cases.  This individual usually carries a full pin kit and has strong rescue training.
  • Medic - Once the victim/s are stabilized, they may need medical attention.  This individual usually carries the best First Aid Kit and also has the highest level of Wildernesss First Aid training.  
  • Runner - Sometimes more heavy duty assistance will be needed (like evacuation of a C-Spine injury).  We often like a pair of runners.  They will paddle or run to contact 911 for recue services.  It's very important to rehease this pitch prior to leaving.  A copy of the SOAP form goes with the runner.
  • Communications Officer - This may be a second duty of the ICS Leader.  This individual frees everyone else to continue in their roles and is in charge of outside communications.
  • Quartermaster (Gopher) - Works with the other teams in acquiring various items they need.