Plan for those 911 moments
By Richard P. Fiems
Harvester Bass Club
This information taken from the published article on espn.com
black and white or
color version of the CAST card. It's about the size of a business
card, so you can print it out on regular paper or card stock and keep it
in your wallet as is, or you can laminate it. Just cut it out along the
outside dotted lines and fold in half.
In August 2009, the Harvester Bass Club was conducting one of its
Tuesday Night Tournaments out of the LeClaire, Iowa, boat ramp. In
total, 28 teams had gotten together to see if they could find five
keepers in Pool 14 of the Mississippi River before the weigh-in time of
8 p.m. Blast off took place at 4:45 pm.
At 6 p.m., the call came in. There had been an accident. A team had
gotten crossways in a big wake and had been ejected from their boat. One
member was shaken up, but otherwise OK. The other had been run over by
the boat and was being taken by air ambulance to the hospital in Peoria.
He ultimately ended up losing his right foot to the damage caused by the
As bad as the situation was, it could have been much worse. The accident
happened right in front of the fire station and boat ramp of the Village
of Port Byron. A rescue crew and ambulance was 25 yards from the boat
ramp and on the scene almost immediately. Other club members happened to
witness the accident and responded without any hesitation. The two
anglers who were ejected from the boat were both police officers and
reverted immediately to their training and emergency experience. By the
time everything was said and done we could only reach one conclusion:
The anglers and the club were incredibly lucky — this time.
One of the big lessons (and there were several) that the club members
learned in the aftermath was that our club needed to have a discussion
and some training for how we respond to emergency situations during
tournaments. This wasn't the first water emergency in the club's history
and it would be naive to think it would be the last. Everything that
could have gone right during this disaster did. The odds of that
happening again are not good. We needed a plan.
As the club president, I accepted the responsibility for looking at
developing something we could use as a club to help protect the members
— as well as others — from harm in the event of an emergency. My
background, training and experience provided me with the basics. What
was developed looks like this.
First, we had to accept these basic facts.
1. In an emergency situation you will react the way you have been
trained to react. The whole purpose of training is to get people to
respond in a proper way when under stress. Fire drills may seem like a
pain at the time, but they do actually work when there is a real fire.
Absent proper training, the average person may misdirect the adrenalin
that is flooded into his system and freeze up. Panic is how an
overloaded system responds to sudden stress, unless the person is
2. Emergencies on the water have the added element of distance and the
obstruction of the water itself. We have to get the rescue people to the
boats in other boats and then transport the injured back to the
ambulance and ultimately to the hospital. The problem is, bass
tournament participants don't like crowds. As a matter of fact, they
would prefer to be hidden if they could. Additionally, with aquatic
emergencies it is entirely possible to be able to see a situation
unfolding on the water from a position on the shore and not be able to
do anything about it. The distance created by the water is exponential
and slows everything way down when it comes to responding.
3. Help, when and if it is available, may not be able to get to the
incident as quickly as we would like or expect. So, the pressure is on
the people who get there first to do what they can until the rescue
squad arrives. But, if the water is a factor in setting the distance, it
is also true that bass fishermen spend lots of time on the water. We
know the quickest ways in and out of everywhere on water we fish. We can
make a difference if we have a plan.
The rules of planning
Planning is not hard. It's just time consuming. The reason it is avoided
by many people is the belief that it ultimately doesn't do any good.
Time changes everything and a well-thought-out and meticulous plan can
be changed by something as simple as a rainstorm or darkness. So what's
the point? Well, to get the point you have to understand the rules.
Rule # 1. Plans are nothing. Planning is everything. The plan you
develop may change very quickly due to an infinite number of
circumstances that are beyond your control. However, in order to change
a plan you must have a plan in place. Consider the professional football
team. Game plans take on all the effort and logistics of military
operations. The opposing team's offense, defense, special teams, talent,
injuries, and seasonal record are all factored into a game plan. Come
game time, everyone is on the same page with a plan. But, when the
defense changes a scheme or a formation, the quarterback looks at what
they are doing and changes the plan! He calls an audible. You have to
have a plan to change one.
Rule # 2. We will play the way we practice. Practice at anything
causes us to reuse and refire receptors in our central nervous systems
that make us respond to some type of cue in a certain way. It becomes
automatic if the practice is taken to heart. Practice does NOT make
perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect. Remember when you first started
using a baitcaster? What kind of magic can you work now because time and
practice have honed your casting skills? It works the same way with
everything else. Luck may play a role at some point, but the more you
practice the luckier you will get. Besides, I believe luck is what
happens when preparation meets opportunity.
Rule # 3. It doesn't have to be pretty. It just has to work.
Americans have an international reputation for doing what works. It's
called pragmatism. A solid plan is more important than a complicated
one. Think back to the last time you had to slam on the brakes while
driving. You caught some movement in your field of vision, assessed a
threat, classified its seriousness, and responded in less time than it
took you to read these last three words. It wasn't very pretty, but it
did work. So, when it comes to a plan we need to remember this: First,
be effective, then be efficient.
A plan's purpose
The biggest benefit of a plan is that it helps you to think things
through in a logical sequence. It also helps to speed up the thinking
process at the same time. The sequence that we use does not have to be
perfect, nor does it have to be followed exactly. You can change it to
meet the needs of the situation as quickly as those needs are
identified. Using bits and pieces of a plan can be as effective as using
all of the plan in some cases. Remember, that not having a plan, not
knowing what to do, not be able to assess what has happened, are the
things that cause people to panic or despair and do the wrong thing, or
nothing at all.
Mentally, one of the best things that you can do for yourself is to stop
using the word "if" when it comes time to think about or discuss
emergency planning. Start thinking "when." An emergency on the water is
just a matter of time. You are the only person who can make sure that
you are ready when it does. Being ready instills confidence, and
confidence brings peace of mind.
The CAST system
The CAST System is very simple, easy to learn, and easy to use. You can
see and understand how it works in less than an hour. By writing the
CAST list on a card and putting it in your wallet you can minimize the
number of things that you forget or overlook during an emergency. (Get a
handy card that you can print out at www.bassmaster.com/bt.)
When "it" happens, get to the scene as quickly and safely as you can,
get out your CAST card, take a deep breath, and follow the list.
The "C" means....
Call emergency help. Get the cavalry coming as soon as you see
that they are needed. 911 works on the water too. You are going to have
to be able to tell the dispatcher exactly where you are, so be ready to
give directions. Call help first.
Control your response. Resist the tendency to get right in there
and start helping. Look around and make sure that entry into the
emergency area is not going to draw you into the hazard. The goal here
is to be careful that the first responders don't become the second
casualties. You can't be much help if you are hurt too.
Contact the club leaders. Get the tournament directors and club
president into the loop as soon as possible. Every tournament boat
should have at least one cell phone in it at all times. The numbers you
need should be on speed dial.
The "A" means....
Assess the situation. Don't guess and don't assume. What is
really happening can only be determined through careful observation.
Don't allow yourself to get tunnel vision. Survey the whole scene and
get a good look at the bigger picture. You can zero in better after
Analyze the threat. Taking care of one aspect of the situation
may not mean that the real threat has gone away. Maybe it just changed
forms. Sometimes handling one situation creates a need to deal with
another one. It's called the "ripple effect." Keep your eyes and ears
open and be ready for virtually anything.
Anticipate needs. Take charge and be ready to line up the others
who come to help until the professionals get there. Now is a good time
to apply something called the OODA Loop. It is used to train fighter
pilots. It means Observe (what is going on around you), Orient (yourself
in that environment), Decide (what you are going to do), and Act. Once
you act, use the OODA loop again. It will help keep you focused and on
The "S" means.....
Start first-aid. You can't use what you do not have. Keep the
first-aid kit in your boat updated and current. Sharpen your first-aid
skills, but do not exceed the scope of your training. Do only what you
are trained and equipped to do.
Stabilize the scene. Sometime containment of the scene is the
best you can do. Try to keep others from being drawn into the danger
zone and make sure everyone who comes to help is wearing their PFD
properly. A calm demeanor on your part will give everyone there the
impression that they need to get control of themselves too. Spread calm
all over the place.
Stand by to assist. When the rescue crews do get there, they may
not have all the people they need to get the job done. Make sure
everything in your boat is tied down and secured, and be ready to help
if you can. If you have advanced skills or training that can be useful,
be sure the professionals know about it.
The "T" means.....
Transport to safety. The first thing that should be moved to
safety is people. If the rescue crew needs another boat, remember that
you are an experienced boater. Next, take reasonable steps to secure the
victim's boat and get it back to the dock. After that, transport his
gear and try to ensure it is protected.
Take notes. Mental notes are good, but written ones are better.
When everything settles down, investigators may ask you for information.
Tell them what you saw and what you did, and be as specific as you can
Talk it out. What went well with the response and what could have
been done better? If there is any benefit at all to dealing with an
emergency it is the fact that we can learn something we can use for the
Implementing the plan
This plan can be used in any situation on the water that poses a threat
to the life, health or safety of an angler or other boater. Remember
that the terms "emergency" and "disaster" are relative. Because we spend
so much time in a boat, we tend to assume that everyone we pass has the
same skill set we posses. You are much better off assuming they don't.
The "First Responder" concept is also a good idea. If you are the first
responder to the scene or the incident, you have more information than
anyone else and should take charge of the follow up response until
relieved by the professionals. If you are a follow-up boat, be ready to
assist the first responder in whatever way you can. If you get there and
it is obvious that no one has stepped up to take control, do what has to
be done. A reasonable plan executed in a reasonable manner will help
protect you from any claims or allegations that the incident was
mishandled. What would you want someone to do for a member of your
family who is in peril on the water? Telling the professionals that you
utilized a club-adopted plan is a good idea, too.
When the dust has settled
Make sure some time is set aside at the next club meeting to discuss the
emergency and the way it was handled. A "debriefing" especially for
those who took care of the situation, can be very good therapy. You will
find out that someone covered the stuff you thought you missed and that
you were not alone in your response. Everyone will appreciate later how
much it really helps to talk about it.
A planned response is an effective response
you have to have a plan to change a plan. We have to make sure that any
plan we use protects what is truly important.
This plan is not carved in stone. It is a living, breathing thing that
will change based on the conditions and circumstances faced at the time.
Training, technology and experience will only make the plan better in
the long run. If you know of a way to make a plan like this more
effective, you have an obligation to your club and fellow anglers to
make sure it gets added to the mix.