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ASTM Developing Standard Hand Signals for Water Rescue

A “Standard Guide for Using Hand Signals During Water Rescue Operations,” is being developed by ASTM Committee F32 on Search and Rescue.

“Standardized training and communication is critical,” said Emily K. King, manager, Public Information and Education, Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Watercraft, who is drafting the standard with instructors and regulators in ASTM Subcommittee F32.02 on Management and Operations. “These signals are for surface water rescue operations,” she continued. “These signals are based on the ‘Safety Code of the American Whitewater Affiliation’ adopted in 1959 and revised in 1989, plus other commonly-used signals that most rescue organizations are using.”

As director of the Water Rescue Program for the National Association of Search and Rescue, King led water, ice, and river rescue training for the State of Ohio for 13 years. “Ohio developed the first river and ice rescue training courses for fire fighters, law enforcement officers, and emergency medical technicians,” she noted.

A lack of uniform training caused operational problems during recent floods in Texas and Florida, “where rescues and evacuations are being performed but the training is not standardized,” according to King. “Flooding is a huge problem which requires many organizations to work side by side in performing rescues,” she stressed. “During the 1997 and 1998 floods in Ohio, many rescues and evacuations were performed easily and safely since most of the agencies had all received the training which we provided in Ohio.”

The proposed standard hand-signal training guide has an estimated publication date of early 2002. It is being developed as a companion to the “Standard Guide for Using Whistle Signals During Water Rescue Operations,” that is currently on ballot. King, who was on the 1996 Olympic Rescue Team for the Whitewater Canoe and Kayak Slalom, said the whistle standard is being developed for use with the following ASTM standards:

• F 1739, Standard Guide for Performance of a Water Rescuer—Level I;
• F 1824, Standard Guide for Performance of a Water Rescuer—Level II; and
• F 1783, Standard Guide for Performance of an Ice Rescuer—Level II.

A draft Standard for Performance of a River/Flood Rescuer—Level III, is under development.

For further technical information, contact Emily K. King, ODNR-Watercraft Division, Columbus, Ohio (phone: 614/265-6504). Committee F32 will hold their fall meeting immediately following the International Technical Rescue Symposium in Golden, Colo., Nov. 4-5. For details, contact Maxine Topping, manager, ASTM Technical Committee Operations, (phone: 610/832-9737). //

Copyright 2001, ASTM