The nuts and bolts of our safety plan:
To ensure that entrants are capable of completing the swim safely, a qualifying swim will be required upon entry. Swimmers must show that they have completed a 5000 yd pool swim within 1 hour, 45 minutes. (Time must be verified by a counter but it does not have to be an organized swim.) The number of entrants will be capped at 80 so that organizers can safely track swimmers.
The Portland Bridge Swim will be held in the Willamette River. The Swim will begin at Sellwood Riverfront Park and end at Cathedral Park. To avoid as much boat traffic as possible, it will begin at 7:30 AM and the course will run along the East side of the river, rather than the center. Permits to hold the event have been requested from the Portland Parks and Recreation Department (for access to the parks) and from the U.S. Coast Guard (for access to the river). The U.S. Coast Guard will issue a broadcast to commercial boats, alerting them to the event and the presence of swimmers in the water.
Each entrant will be required to be accompanied by a support kayaker carrying food, water and a life jacket for the swimmer. Swimmers will be provided with bright, neon swim caps to improve visibility in the river. Each support kayaker will be provided with a radio and an orange swimmer in the water flag to display on the kayak, to warn recreational boaters.
In addition to the support kayakers, spotting/safety motorboats provided by the organizers will be placed along the course. Motorboats will be located at least every mile, ideally every 0.5 mile (depending on availability of boats). Boats will be numbered on a large display so that, in the event of a problem, a support kayaker can quickly give a relative location. First responders will be present on one boat per mile.
Maps of the course, with the locations of motorboats and places to exit the river will be made available prior to the race. They will be discussed during the pre-race briefing and a copy will be provided to each support kayaker.
In the event of a health or safety problem, the kayaker will notify the Safety Coordinator by radio. If necessary, the Safety Coordinator will dispatch one or more motorboats to the kayaker & swimmer’s location to assist and/or request assistance by emergency personnel. The patient will be taken to an exit point for transportation to an emergency room, urgent care, etc. as the situation requires.
At the exit from the course, EMTs will be present to observe swimmers as they leave the water. Warm drinks and blankets will be available to all participating swimmers. There are no hot showers at the park.
If mass evacuation from the water becomes necessary, the Safety Coordinator will notify all motorboats and kayakers by radio. Depending on their location, kayakers will either direct swimmers to the closest shoreline or they will be picked up by the motorboats. Swimmers and relays who have not reached the 6 mile marker within 4 hours will be stopped and returned to the race start.