‘Dacks Dips – It is a beautiful, but hot and muggy July afternoon and you and five buddies are canoeing the Adirondacks in three boats, on day two of a three-day paddle. You are in the middle of one of the larger lakes when a thunderstorm rolls through. The thunder you barely heard five or ten minutes ago is now crashing all around you, accompanied by blinding flashes of lightning. The clouds have unleashed buckets of water, wind has started to howl, and whitecaps are picking up. You are suddenly very glad you have all been wearing PFDs, but soaked, you wish you had a raincoat on and something beyond cotton t-shirts and shorts. You paddle as hard as you can for shore and just before making it there Megan and Mark’s boat flips, 100 feet from shore.
Scene Assessment #1: You have two people in the water. You can barely keep your boat upright. What do you do and why?
The safest, most conservative thing to do would be to think about scene safety and get yourself to shore. Having another boat flipped is only going to make things worse. However, if you were really worried about your friends, and you had more than beginner level canoe skills, you could consider “rafting up” the two boats still upright (bring and then hold them together and create a more stable platform) and trying to get the two in the water in your boats. A very tough call in rough conditions.
Scene Assessment #2 and Primary Assessment: The lightning and thunder continue, as does the rain and wind, but it starts to diminish. The temp seems to have dropped 20 degrees. Your two friends, Megan and Mark, who were in the water and the rest of you are now all on shore. Megan and Mark, the “swimmers,” are huddled in fetal balls at the edge of the water. Both appear to have good primary assessments, other than a suspect E, as they are looking very cold (shaking and white to cyanotic skin). The rest of you are wet to the bone and shivering now that the mad-dash paddling is over.
Secondary Physical: Both friends are violently shivering. One of them, Megan, has a large gash on her knee but minimal bleeding at this time. You find no issues with you other friend, Mark, but he is a bit “fuzzy” and slow in his responses. Otherwise everything thankfully normal.
SAMPLE: Both Megan and Mark complain of being really cold, though you can barely understand them through chattering teeth. When you ask them about allergies or medications they mumble “none.” They ate some crackers at lunch a couple hours ago and they’ve been drinking a good amount of water (you think they were a bit hung-over from last night’s partying). When you ask about “outs” they say they don’t know, they just want to get warm. They were fine before the storm.
Vitals: Round 1 – a) Megan, with cut knee: AVPU AOx4, HR 56, RR 14. B) Mark: AVPU AOx4 but fuzzy; HR 56, RR 12. Round 2 –Megan: AVPU AOx4, HR 60, RR 14. B) Mark: V on AVPU scale, HR 52, RR 10.
Setting: You are on a steep (15-20 degree slope), rocky, and heavily wooded shoreline. No great or even good campsites (no room for even one tent) where you are on in sight. You get out your map: Nearest road-side take out is a 4 miles away, but it is back across the widest part of the lake (a 2 mile open crossing). Next nearest take out is 6 miles away with a quarter mile portage. One canoe with all its gear is still in the lake and you aren’t exactly sure where (but wind is blowing towards shore so you hope it isn’t too far away). Wind is still gusty, up to 20 or 25 mph and light rain, with a beautiful rainbow as the sun starts to emerge. It’s much cooler now, maybe 60 degrees F. Lightning and thunder are almost gone as the storm blows eastward. It is 4 pm. No cell phone coverage.