2016 Revised Safety Talk Outline

Guidelines for Giving Safety Talks

An effective Safety and Paddle Talk is an essential Guide skill.  The more comfortable you are with your talks, the easier it will be for you to give to a group.


Every day before we go rafting, we give a safety talk – even if we did it the day before.  Sometimes it is difficult to keep your participant’s attention.  Below are suggestions that might help.


Suggestions on Keeping your Audience’s Attention


Make Sure your audience is comfortable:

Before you start your talk, gather everyone in a place that is comfortable and has as few distractions near.  If it is hot, sit in the shade.  If possible, have an eddy in sight so you can point one out during the talk.


Use Props:

Bring a paddle, a throw bag, a full size or miniature raft and anything else you think will hekp keep your audience’s attention.  It also helps create a visual image that sticks in peoples’ minds. 


Involve your audience:

Provide language interpreters as needed.  Use a participant to demonstrate a procedure like catch a thw bag or get pulled into a raft.  “Talking” is the least effective way to teach the skills that will help participants have a safe and fun experience, so use demonstrations and stop and ask questions often to check for understanding.  Give positive advice, e.g. “use caution walking near shore because the rocks are slippery”.  By the conclusion of your safety talk, you must have some feedback from participants indicating that they understand the key points.  If there is any doubt about an important idea being understood, demonstrate it then ask a participant to demonstrate it again.


Look your audience in the eye:

·         Make eye contact with the audience.

·         Use hand gestures effectively

·         Do not wear sunglasses

This helps build trust and a relationship between the speaker and the listeners



·         Speak clearly, and adjust your voice so that everyone can hear you.  Don’t shout for the sake of being loud.

·         It is common to speak rapidly when nervous, try to take your time speaking

·         Effectively used, a pause in you speech can be used to emphasize a point, or to allow the audience to react to a fact, anecdote ro joke.

·         Be yourself, allow your own personality to come across in your speech, but don’t “Make a speech.”


Use a short outline that lets you say what’s most important for safety with today’s river conditions/flows.


Concepts and Focus

·         Always explain “why”, not just “what” to do; describe moving water, forces at work, etc

·         Keep it simple and direct; the fewest words that convey the most information

·         “Fun” is better than somber and scary; people remember more when they enjoy it

·         Underlined Items: Stress these, multiple times if possible


General Introduction

·         Names, especially any guides helping with the safety talk

·         Description of the trip: What section of river and what to expect. Schedule

·         Explain the types of boats that will be on the river that day (Oar and Paddle boats)

·         This is a high water trip: Really fun, and requires good fitness, swimming ability and sometimes, aggressive action

·         Water is cold, VERY fast and strong: respect it.  It can be, and is usually, run safely, as long as you pay attention.

·         A person in the water has between 1 and 2 minutes before they are too weak to assist in their own rescue.  Important to get out as soon as possible. (We’ll tell you how in this talk.


Rafting is really safe, but accidents do sometimes happen.  Here’s what you need to know to take care of yourself:


On Land:

·         Use caution around rocks (80% of accidents on-shore)

·         Sun/Heat ((if applicable): hats, sunscreen, sunglasses

·         Dehydration, even on cloudy days

·         Cold: Hypothermia. Proper clothing/no cotton.  High water note: High water increases risk.

·         Footwear: must be worn at all times.  Closed shoes or heel straps; no flip-flops.

·         Poison Oak, Rattlesnakes’

·         Dropped food brings snakes

·         Do not drink the water

·         Inform guides of any special medical conditions

·         Rinse feet before getting into boat


On Water

·         PFDs:

o   PFDs must be worn anytime a person is in water on in a boat; no exceptions.

o   How to tighten and check for proper fit

o   Tie off long dangling straps (explain “loose lines”)

o   May take off with guide’s permission to add or remove layer

o   Must be checked by a Guide before entering boat/water

·         Helmets:

o   Must always be worn when in the raft

o   Demonstrate proper adjustment and fit

·         Keep both legs in boat

·         Keep weight on feet to stay in boat

·         Secure hat, sunglasses, cameras etc with short, breakable tethers

·         Ask guide before water fight

·         Paddles:

o   Hand on T grip at all times

o   Let the boat hit rocks, not your paddle.

·         Stay in your own raft, even during water fights

·         Bags in rafts for jackets, etc.


In Water:


·         Always ask Guide before swimming.  High water note: there may be no  on-purpose swimming today

o   No Jumping or diving from boat.

·         For on-purpose swimming,

o    ease over the side, legs tucked up (please do not demonstrate “lounge chair” – we are no longer referring to this position)

o   Wait to take a breath.  Cold can make you inhale too soon.  Be patient; you’ll have a chance.

·         Foot entrapment: Always keep your feet off the bottom in moving water.

·         Hole, wave trains, strainers

·         “Ball up” When going over drops or into holes

·         (on rivers where this applies): If caught in a hole, swim to the sides or the bottom

·         Breathe in troughs; crests will break over your head

·         Vegetation: a particular High Water hazard.  Get/Stay away. From vegetation in the river.  (No need to mention at low flow)

Unscheduled Swimming:

·         Get back to a/the boat unless told otherwise; swim aggressively where you need to go, get out of the water.

·         DO NOT swim for or try to grab trees, bushes and the like; stay away from brushy shorelines

·         Listen for/to the guide for possible instructions

·         We only point positive (Explain)

·         Hold onto your paddle (if possible), but “people before gear”

·         Get out from under raft: Pick one direction; hand over hand

·         Stay away from downstream side of raft

·         Throw Bag:

o   Grab robe; not bag

o   Do NOT wrap rope around any part of body

o   Hold over shoulder (Demonstrate)

·         Getting swimmers back into boat:

o   In the boat: Listen to the guide; do what they say

o   Yell “Swimmer!” if it’s “unplanned:

o   Use the handle end of the paddle to reach a swimmer (Demonstrate)

o   Pull in swimmer (Demonstrate)

Emergency Situations:

·         Wraps: Describe.  Highside command (demonstrate/describe effect)

·         Flips:

o   Get out from underneath boat and look to nearest guide.

o   Get back into or onto the boat unless told otherwise (climb from the ends if upside down)

Rafting is fun and swimming can be too – but if you take an unplanned swim, get out of the wwater.  Respect the power of the river.


“If you still have any questions or concerns, make sure you talk to a guide about them and make sure you’re willing to go, before you decide to get on the water.”