May 10, 2016

Guiding and the Unexpected Emergency

What do I do?

What happens when an accident or medical emergency occurs on your boat, miles away from land? Let me give you some safety tips I use on every guide trip that can be applied to anyone out on the water.

We have all seen this before. A large group of people arrive at a boat ramp with only one person who can back the vehicle up, put the boat in the water, park the trailer, and drive the boat. That scenario is just what we do as guides on every trip. If the clients are at the ramp, they would lend a helping hand. Would you want to count on just one person to help you in any type of emergency situation?

After we are in the boat, I go over a number of safety tips which is about a ten minute procedure. I start with the life jackets, where to locate them and how to put them on (it is surprising how many people do not know how to do this).  Next, is the throwaway cushion. Mine is bright yellow with three big, black words, "I Need Help." Other boaters may see the cushion and be able to come to our aid. At this time, I point out where the battery cases and fire extinguisher are. If a fire happens at a battery compartment or a gas tank has been compromised, the guide or the clients can respond, as needed. If I have a medical emergency out on the lake, the clients should know how to start the boat and get us back to land as soon as possible. Lastly, I point out where my first aid kit is and its components.

So, we are now out on the lake having fun fishing when, all of a sudden, a medical emergency occurs. In that moment, time stops and panic sets in. You stop what you are doing and think, "What should I do? I do not even know how to do CPR, and I do not have a first aid kit!” That scenario, that I just played out, can happen to any inland guide, charter boat captain, or anyone, at any given time of day. As for charter boat captains, they have to go to school to get their licenses before they can become a guide, along with taking a CPR and first aid course. Inland guides do not need a CPR or first aid course to get a license, so I have to ask, "Are a charter boat captain's clients more important than our clients?" All clients should be treated as friends or family.

A little history on myself, I was certified as a paramedic in 1976. As a career firefighter/ paramedic, I had the best of both worlds, a job I loved, and I also worked 92 days a year guiding Castle Rock and Petenwell Flowages.

As previously stated, my first aid kit is what I need, a basic Johnson-Johnson kit. I have removed and added items based on necessity. Now, on two of the inside pockets, I just have the basic articles: bandages, cleaning wipes and burn gel. Now, I open the main pocket, the heart of my kit: an ice pack, a mouth barrier used in CPR, three epi-pens, some after bite and some odds and ends I add. My kit is for me, so you may not need what I have in my kit. Certainly, you should get a kit to fit your needs and fishing style.

In all my years of fishing and/or guiding, I, as most, have had little things happen in the boat; a hook in a finger, too much sun, cut myself, and so on. For example, this spring, late March, it was cold outside and I was out with two guys in the river south of Petenwell Dam when a medical emergency occurred. A client had some kind of reaction to something, so I gave him one of the epi-pens and showed him how to use it. After calling 911, I went to the ramp as fast as a 40 hp motor can go. All in all, it turned out very well.  I actually ended up getting two more trips from the two gentlemen.

The point is, any of this could happen to any guide, or fisherman, on or off the water. This upcoming year, the schools in Wisconsin are going to train the school kids in CPR and first aid. As guides and anglers, let's not have our kids know more about safety than we do. Any fire department has CPR classes from time to time, and some have first aid classes as well. Just call your local fire department for any information or questions you may have. Be safe on the water, and most of all have fun.

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