OK, so SWR skills enable us to get the victim out of harms way - now what? In some cases, First Aid will need to be performed. At a minimum, get CPR training. CPR training is often available at work sites for free or a nominal fee. Red Cross CPR certification classes are a half-day and cost $45 - $65. The certification must be renewed annually. The Red Cross First Aid certification class is also 4 hours, costs $40, and is good for 3 years. A combined Red Cross CPR and First Aid class (8.5 hours) costs $75.
All ACA certified instructors must maintain an appropriate level of first aid training: ACA Instructor Requirements. In a nutshell, CPR certification is required no matter where you teach. The standard Red Cross First Aid course is really only practical if you are less than 4 hours away from emergency services. This works well in urban environments like places along the Potomac near Washington, DC but isn't really practical for most of the places we paddle. I highly recommend the next level of training - Wilderness First Aid (WFA). The WFA class takes only a weekend and prepares your with much more solid training and decision making skills. One of the best values in WFA (and the more comprehensive Wilderness First Responder (WFR)) training is the Center for Wilderness Safety (CWS). Prices typically run between $165 - $180, a tad less expensive than NOLS which costs between $200 - $220. Another option is Wilderness First Aid which runs about $240. Ignoring cost, CWS provides two more important benefits:
- Practice: CWS mans the first aid stations for several big events like the Sierra Club One Day Hike
- Inexpensive/convenient/excellent supplies: CWS Gear Shop
Just like rescue training, periodic practice is exceptionally valuable. Fortunately or unfortunately, first aid practice is much more difficult to come by. I strongly encourage volunteering to help out with a first aid station at a major event once a year to keep those skills sharp.
Even if you are not a professional instructor or a river guide, good first aid training and a current first aid kit will give you piece of mind when participating on paddling trips.