A long time ago in a galaxy far far away... well, it seems like another life anyway - I was a teenager taking lessons to become a certified lifeguard. I clearly remember the instructor telling me never to forget two things: 1) NOT to endanger myself by taking unnecessary risks, and 2) NEVER go in the water to rescue someone you can save from the safety of dry ground. Even television shows about lifeguards clearly show them taking a flotation device with them on a rescue. Often I've seen all the parts and pieces needed for such rescue work collected but not organized and now I've seen them all neat and tidy in an easy to access kit: enter Mustang Survival's Water Rescue Kit.
Keeping those lessons well in mind, I've always tried to pay attention when I'm in or around the water and might be called upon to render aid to anyone. Now, I'm not a weak swimmer but it's not my idea of a good time to try to pull a 200 pound man out of the water, and it certainly isn't fun to think about having to tow him along as I swim for shore or something that floats. I'd far prefer to:
- Make sure I stay high and dry
- Throw him something that will keep him afloat
- Throw him something he can grab to be towed in to where I'm still high and dry
Now I'm sure there are a couple reading this who are thinking about what kind of coward I am that I won't willingly jump into the water to go rescue my friend or workmate. I never said I wouldn't. I said I'd prefer not to. If I can effect a rescue without risking my own neck then that's just the smart way to perform. In addition to that, I can think of any number of people whom I wouldn't want to have jump in the water to try to rescue me. At that point I may end up having to rescue both of us and, if that's the case, they haven't helped but have made the situation worse. I'd really rather they stay high and dry and throw me something I can pull myself in with.
Once again I direct your attention back to the Mustang Survival Water Rescue Kit. Keeping in mind the three priorities I was working with (stay dry, give them flotation and provide them a tow/pull ine) I was quite pleased to find tools to do exactly that in the test kit I received. My test kit was the Mustang Survival MRK110 Water Rescue Kit containing:
- one inflatable personal flotation device
- one Mustang Survival rescue stick
- one throw bag
Each of those items is shown individually to the right. The MD3025 Belt-Pack PFD allows the rescuer to protect themselves first. (Remember that rule above?) It only takes a couple seconds to click this around your waist, especially if you've pre-adjusted it to fit. This PFD is not self-inflating. It requires manual inflation. I've had a few people tell me that isn't practical, but let's think about this. If you're on or near the water and you can't swim then you should always be wearing a PFD anyway. If you CAN swim, are wearing this PFD and happen to unintentionally end up in the drink then you can inflate it with no issues and relax some - as compared to treading water while doing no good for the person you were trying to rescue. At least you're not making your own safety situation worse. The key, though, is that once you've opened the MRK110 kit, you have to put the PFD on FIRST.
The next item - the Rescue Stick - IS self-inflating upon contact with the water. So, after putting on the PFD, you simply throw the Rescue Stick to the victim and it will inflate to a horse-shoe shape on contact. The large horseshoe shaped flotation device allows for them to keep their head and shoulders above water AND can be turned ends up to act as a signalling device. With 35 pounds of buoyancy, the Rescue Stick, once inflated, offers flotation to more than just one person, able to support a couple people until they can be pulled out of the water.
After insuring you're safe and then providing for their immediate safety via the Rescue Stick, the next item in the kit is the Throw Bag. The heavy duty buoyant bag holds 50 feet of floating rope. As with all such devices, you would throw it past the victim and pull it back over them, allowing them to grab on so they can be pulled into shore, the dock, boat, whatever.
So, how well does all this work? Well, the MD3025 PFD is easy to get on and easy to inflate - assuming you're not a career chain smoker who can't fill their lungs with air. The rope bag itself DOES float and the rope also floats (individually tested in the Chesapeake Bay). As to the Rescue Stick... the literature from Mustang Survival says that the Rescue Stick is so moisture sensitive that the carry container for the kit has a Humidity Indicator and Silica Gel packs to absorb moisture. The box itself (made by Storm Case) is air and water tight and impact resistant. When I dropped the Rescue Stick into the Chesapeake Bay inflation was almost instantaneous. The horseshe shaped device was larger than I expected and I think I could have gotten two people inside the curve if necessary. Just in case the auto-inflate feature doesn't work, Mustang Survival also designed in a manual inflation device. It's (essentially) a red plastic handle on a cord that, when pulled, activates the inflation mechanism.
As "basic" kits go this is a very complete package. However, for those who don't feel they need each of these pieces, Mustang Survival also markets the MRK120 and MRK130.
The MRK120 contains four Rescue Sticks, one Throw Bag, user reference material, the Humidity Indicator and Dessicant (Silica gel).
The MRK130 is the same as the MRK120 minues the Throw Bag.
If you own a boat... if you regularly work in or near the water... if your team is responsible for equipping or maintaining boats or even jet skis... the MRK110 isn't so big that it can't be included. Less than two feet long and smaller than eight inches in height and width, the package is fairly compact. Maybe you should check them out.