Health & safety

The Hawkesbury Canoe Classic uses more than 400 volunteers to look after the safety and well-being of the 600 or so paddlers in the event.

Each craft is assigned a canoe number on the day of the classic. Officials note the progress of this number as the craft proceeds past each checkpoint and relays the number by radio to the next checkpoint.

The downstream checkpoint lists this number in order with its other "Due Soons". As each paddler arrives, their number is crossed off the "Due Soon" list.

If a number is not marked off but other Due Soon’s have, this sends an immediate alert that your paddler may be overdue.

Checks are made and searches instigated if necessary. Each checkpoint has access to search and rescue craft available to travel back to the last checkpoint looking for an overdue canoe.

Some craft do not give their number as they pass each checkpoint and these are marked as overdue until it is confirmed that they passed the next checkpoint downstream. To avoid the motorised rescue vessels needlessly disrupting other canoes, searches are only made when it is certain that the canoe is overdue.

Hypothermia – Severe

Signs & Symptoms

  • Shivering stops
  • Incoherent
  • Irrational behaviour
  • Inability to walk
  • Unconsciousness, with a death-like appearance
  • Slow or irregular pulse & slow shallow breathing

Management

  • Reduce heat loss
  • Protect from wind and other conditions before removing wet clothing, eg. in a tent or shack.
  • Remove excess wet clothing being careful not to expose the casualty to the elements which could lower body temperature even further.
  • Put on more dry clothing, covering exposed areas,
  • Increase heat production (re-warm gently)
  • Increase muscular activity.
  • Gently rub them.
  • Wrap in blanket.
  • Share body heat.
  • If conscious, give warm food and drinks.
  • Do not give the paddler alcohol.
  • Do not apply external heat as it will cause cardiac arrest.
  • Contact checkpoint co-ordinator or Red Cross.

Hypothermia – Mild

Signs & Symptoms

  • Skin numbness.
  • Shivering.
  • Muscular unco-ordination.
  • Mental sluggishness.
  • Loss of memory.

Management

  • Reduce heat loss.
  • Protect from wind and other environmental conditions before attempting to remove wet clothing e.g. in a tent or shack.
  • Remove excess wet clothing – be careful not to expose the casualty to the elements which could lower body temperature even further.
  • Put on more dry clothing, covering exposed areas.
  • Increase heat production (rewarm gently).
  • Increase muscular activity.
  • Gently rub them.
  • Increase heat of the environment.
  • Wrap in blanket.
  • Share body heat.
  • If conscious give warm food and drinks.
  • Do not give alcohol.
  • Contact checkpoint co-ordinator or Red Cross.

What happens if my paddler needs assistance?

If a paddler is between checkpoints on the water, they should attract the attention of other paddlers and explain their problem.

Under the “rules”, other paddlers are obliged to assist if they can or otherwise notify the nearest checkpoint of the problem. Any time taken to do this is claimable under the Redress rule.

Checkpoint volunteers are available to help paddlers at "minor" checkpoints and volunteers from the Pink First Aid and the Sports Physiotherapy Group are on hand to help at "major" checkpoints.

If for some reason you are delayed (e.g. car trouble) and cannot meet your paddler at a major checkpoint, try to notify another landcrew, so that they can inform the checkpoint officials of your delay. If your paddler can't find you, they should check in with First Aid or with an Officials who will have blankets to keep them warm and can supply basic food and drink until you arrive.