First Aid On The Water: Expect The Unexpected

– by Phil Wagner, Commander, Orillia Power Squadron

Boating is a fun recreational activity that provides great times and lasting memories with friends and family.

Transport Canada mandates the required safety equipment for boating, including signalling devices such as flares and whistles, but do you know what to do while waiting for help in the event of an emergency?

First aid on the water is something boaters may not think about until there is an incident. Being prepared by taking first aid training and having an up-to-date, fully stocked first aid kit can make all the difference when the unexpected happens.

When planning for your trip out on the water, it’s important to include checking the first aid kit as part of your trip checklist. Make sure your first aid kit is fully stocked and items have not expired. Remember medical supplies – even bandages – have a shelf life.

But having a first aid kit is just the first step in being prepared for the unexpected. Making sure there is always at least one person trained and certified in first aid while on the water is essential.

First aid is an important part of the boating lifestyle. The “captain” of any vessel, from very small to large, should have some form of first aid training. Standard First Aid CPR/AED or Marine First Aid CPR/AED certifications are valid for three years with more frequent training recommended.
Depending on the incident, heading to shore may not be the best option. Be aware that EMS response time and receiving advanced medical attention on the water is different than when on land. When giving water, providing 9-1-1 with your location may be your best guess unless you can provide GPS coordinates.

Marine First Aid CPR/AED training is very similar to Standard First CPR/AED training and includes:
• EMS System
• Check, Call Care
• Responding to Emergencies
• Airway Emergencies
• Breathing & Circulation Emergencies
• First Aid for Respiratory and Cardiac Arrest (CPR and Defibrillation)
• Wound Care
• Head and Spine Injuries
• Sudden Medical Emergencies
• Environmental Emergencies
• Poisons

CanBoat is obligated to educate its members on the importance of first aid training and certification. First aid training provides the knowledge and confidence to assist in a first aid emergency.

The Canadian Red Cross and St. John’s Ambulance offer marine first aid courses and certifications endorsed by Transport Canada. As a recreational boater, standard first aid training is a more accessible alternative to marine first aid and, as such, it is easier to find an available course.

Remember, time is not your friend on the water. First aid training gives you the knowledge on how to best respond in a first aid emergency and empowers you to respond based on that training.

Be safe on the water!