River Safety Certifications for Guides

Along with the exhilaration and thrill offered by outdoor sports comes inherent risk.

Add a remote setting and water to the equation and some people might find whitewater rafting to be incredibly dangerous. In reality, a trip down the river could be safer than the car ride it took to get there.

Outfitters take extreme caution to know that their river guides are prepared for anything on the river. Therefore guides with additional river safety training become top choice for employment in addition to receiving higher wages.

The most popular and widely recognized certification for river safety is the Swiftwater Rescue Technician, SRT, or the Whitewater Rescue Technician, WRT. Both courses are taught through Rescue 3 International, an organization that trains professionals such as paramedics, firemen, law enforcement officers, search and rescue teams as well as river guides. This river-specific skills course focuses on scenarios common to rafting trips using equipment that every guide carries. Individuals with a certification in SRT or WRT are trained to react to a situation before it becomes dangerous, keeping themselves and their clients safer on the water.

The SRT and WRT certifications differ in several ways. While both teach valuable skills, the WRT contains more content and scenarios specific to the professional river guide. An SRT certification allows professionals who do not work on the water daily to conduct a safe and efficient rescue. Therefore, a prospective or current raft guide will benefit the most from the WRT course.

Using equipment that a raft trip already has, a WRT certified river guide can set up a mechanical advantage to release a submerged raft. He/she can safely swim out to a stranded customer and assist them in returning to their raft or to shore using ropes and the built-in harness attached to a rescue Personal Flotation Device, or PFD. A WRT also knows the proper procedure to release a foot entrapment victim.

WRT course instructors also understand that technical skills mean nothing if a raft guide cannot organize and lead a group during a rescue. The WRT 2 certification focuses on these skills in greater depth. Leading a whitewater rescue involves advanced rescue skills in addition to the utilization of a team. A WRT 2 course builds upon the skills learned in the basic WRT course, with more emphasis on team dynamics and practicing hands-on scenarios.

The drills and techniques taught in a WRT course allow a river guide to act quicker in an emergency situation, making use of the equipment he can carry.

Other river skill certifications are offered through the American Canoe Association, or ACA. The ACA Raft Guide Instructor Course is an intense, five day course to teach the essential techniques of raft guiding for both current and future guides and instructors. ACA also offers multiple kayak guiding and instruction certification in both skills and river safety.

The benefit to these types of instruction certification is the freedom they give to a new raft guide. A novice guide can demonstrate to an employer their commitment to a safe and professional river trip without spending years learning the craft. Additional certifications also lead to an increase in daily wages for most raft guiding jobs.

Mostly, river safety certifications give a raft guide the peace of mind and confidence to take charge or any emergency situation on the water.

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