Every year in Illinois, between the organized club trips, meetup groups, friends getting together, etc. there are lots of people on lots of different waterways! And for the most part everyone has a great time! After all, the worst day paddling is better than the best day at work! And then just once, out of all those many hours spent on the water, something goes wrong. Someone steps wrong and sprains/breaks an ankle. Someone stumbles, reaches down to break their fall, and breaks a wrist. Or dislocates a shoulder…or…or…or… So what happens when someone gets hurt? Would you be ready to deal with the situation?
Advanced preparation and training is essential. Depending on the context you are in will depend on the first aid training and skills you will need. In a context where Emergency Responders are readily available to help, first aid as taught by the American Red Cross and American Heart Association (amongst others) is appropriate. This type of training focuses on dealing with stabilizing critical life threatening issues and waiting for professional help to arrive. In a more remote context, where emergency assistance is day(s) away, Wilderness First aid as taught by Wilderness Medical Associates, Outward Bound, (amongst others) is appropriate.
Once you have had the first aid training you will be ready to put together an emergency kit. Not only will this involve first aid supplies, but it might include other things as well. Think through some likely scenarios that might happen and plan in advance for how to handle them. What will you need if someone gets hypothermic and needs to warm up? what will you need if someone damages a boat? What will you need if someone loses a paddle? What will you need to signal for help? What will you need if someone needs to mark walk out and mark a trail back to the rest of the group? What if you get stuck out and have to spend the night? The kit will probably vary based the type of paddling, time of year, location, etc.