- The Washington Times - Monday, August 18, 2003

Jumping into a river to rescue someone should be the last resort, says Boyd Post, co-creator of a water-safety program for Fairfax County high school students.

To make his point, Mr. Post points to the three New York camp counselors who drowned last week while attempting to save a friend.

“The technique is to reach [a victim] with a tree limb, to throw a rope, a belt, anything, to reach the person who’s in trouble so they can grab hold,” he says.

The next option, Mr. Post says, would be to throw the victim something that floats, such as a cooler or a life vest. Then try to reach him or her from a boat or raft.

He says jumping in is the last and most dangerous option.

“Reach, throw, row and go” says Mr. Post, reciting the Red Cross maxim about the hierarchy of water rescue.

Mr. Post belongs to the Potomac River Small-mouth Bass Club, which was recruited by the Fairfax County Park Authority to develop a water-safety program for high schools.

Pat Cook, aquatic specialist for the park authority, says the county developed the program because teens are at high risk for getting into trouble around water.

Teenage boys are the most likely group to drown in a river or lake, she says, and a surprising number of urban teens have no water skills.

The New York counselors were strong swimmers — two were captains of their high school swim teams. But authorities note that the 18- and 19-year-olds didn’t have a chance when they jumped into the strong current after a fellow counselor who fell.

Swimming against a competitor in a pool cannot doesn’t compare to swimming against an unpredictable current, Mr. Post points out. The most important thing he tries to teach is respect for the water.

“Flowing water is tremendously powerful,” he says. He has seen it fold an aluminum canoe in half when the boat got caught on a rock.

He also advises:

• Don’t trust a calm surface, because one cannot see a strong current underneath.

• Don’t go near the water after drinking alcohol, which impairs judgment.

• Be aware of weather status and warnings, such as for lightning and hypothermia-inducing conditions, which can be deadly.

• Avoid slippery rocks along rivers and streams.

“Think for yourself,” Mr. Post tells teens. “Don’t go with what the gang wants to do. Don’t let peer pressure misdirect you.”

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