Safety and comfort is always the first priority in all our programs, and more than 137,000 students have safely participated in award-winning RiverWatch School Programs since 1995.
Our remarkable safety record represents 800,000 student hours and more than a million student kilometers in rafts without any safety incident requiring EMS 911 emergency medical services.
RiverWatch rafts are used to transport participants along a ten-kilometer section of their local river, with participants providing the paddling power. A combination of policy, equipment, procedures, experience and training keeps everyone safe during RiverWatch programs.
While student comfort and safety are always top priority, not every day outdoors is sunny or warm — that’s the nature of field science!
• On inclement days, students are kept as warm as possible by using a combination of physical activity, rain coats, life jackets and heated shelters for lunch.
• Trips may be modified or shortened in the event of light rain, some cold or some wind but usually not cancelled.
Forecasts can change or be inaccurate, so as often as possible, it’s best to make cancellation decisions right up until early morning of the trip day. Considerations that can modify, shorten or cancel a trip include:
• Morning temperatures at 10 a.m. below 1 ºC or below 7 ºC on rainy days
• Afternoon temperatures not reaching 5 ºC
• Steady rain, significant snow or strong winds
RiverWatch participants are not required to be comfortable swimmers - the safest place to be is seated inside a raft or standing on-shore.
• Life jackets are worn at all times on-river and along the shoreline.
• A safety briefing is given prior to boarding rafts.
• There is a qualified and experienced guide in each raft certified to Transport Canada commercial rafting standards.
RiverWatch raft trips use the easiest Grade I rivers with clear navigation and three main river hazards.
• Obstacles – mid-river rocks, bridge pillars and fallen shoreline trees
• Falling overboard – not likely, but possible
• Paddles – may accidentally hit other paddlers
River hazards are controlled in the following manner:
• Obstacles – participants listen to the guide's commands and paddle as asked
• Falling overboard - participants grab the raft lifeline and do not try standing up
• Paddles – participants pick-up their paddles slowly, keeping their top hand on the grip
For RiverWatch school programs, detailed pre-trip information is provided through the school describing "who, what, where, when and how".
• Parents acknowledge that all water activities are associated with some risk and grant permission to participant based on informed consent.
• All our programs include a pre-trip on-site safety briefing to explain trip logistics, hazards and safety response.
RiverWatch Safety Equipment
Large professional-sized rafts are used for a stable platform from which to view the river. Additionally, RiverWatch provides:
• Type V personal flotation devices (life jackets) as mandated by Transport Canada and the Coast Guard.
• Approved and properly-fitted life jackets worn at all times on or near the water.
• A pre-trip safety briefing on how to fit a life jacket, prevent incidents and handle emergencies.
• Chemistry lab safety during water quality testing as required in all laboratories - safety glasses, garbage containers, liquid waste collection bottles, broken glass container, first-aid kit and eyewash.
• Rubber boots and raincoats for use in cool or wet weather.
RiverWatch guides are trained to Transport Canada Commercial Rafting Standards.
• Guides have Standard First Aid certification and/or may also have Wilderness First Aid, National Lifeguard Society, Swift Water Rescue or Emergency Medical Responder training.
• All river guides have lifetime experience with paddling canoes or kayaks and receive pre-season raft training to Transport Canada commercial rafting standards.
After more than 800,000 student hours and more than a million student kilometers in rafts, there has never been a RiverWatch safety incident requiring EMS 911 emergency medical services.
• RiverWatch guides carry an emergency response plan, first aid kit, rescue rope, dry spare clothing and a cell phone.
• RiverWatch operates within urban centres that have calling access to Emergency Medical Services 911.