Bankside collapse is one of the biggest hazards on water margin searches.
Searchers should be trained of this danger and use great caution particularly after crossing walls/fences to access rivers, or when operating at night. We advise that if you’re prepared to conduct searches at night, you should train at night on comparable terrain.
We recommend that each search party has a nominated party leader. It is the responsibity of the party leader to ensure the quality and the safety of the search. The party leader should always brief their team on arrival, providing group control.
Remember river banks are inherently unstable and often undermined.
The picture below shows a typical view we get as a searcher approaching the waters edge. Note, trees often give a false sense of security and draw searchers to the edge.
Same location seen from the side, showing the unstable nature of the bank and severe undercutting.
It is far easier to assess the far bank for dangers. For this reason, we suggest that if possible searches are conducted with teams moving on both banks simultaneously.
In some situations it is prudent to have the searcher attached to a tether. Buoyancy aid attachment points are generally not load bearing. In hard-lock mode, a tethered buoyancy aid safeguards against slips/bank collapse, but should never be relied opon to protect from falls from height.
Most rescue teams conduct searches in general team kit rather than immersion PPE. Accidental immersion in moving water without PPE is extremly serious. We advise all party members are equipped with helmets and buoyancy aids and trained to swim in moving water conditions.