article photo 4RuYKkt5sOmDr1o135iGd-1.jpg

Request for Proposals – Redesign and Update the AW River Safety Code

Posted: 11/08/2022
By: Evan Stafford

Request for Proposals
American Whitewater Safety Code Update and Outreach Materials

With a recent grant from the United States Coast Guard, American Whitewater is launching a project to update our whitewater safety code. We are issuing this Request for Proposals for assistance in this effort from a graphic designer or graphic design team.

1. Background and Issue Project Seeks to Address

Founded in 1954, American Whitewater is a national 501(c)(3) non-profit organization with a
mission “to protect and restore America's whitewater rivers and to enhance opportunities to enjoy them safely.” American Whitewater is a membership organization representing a broad diversity of individual whitewater enthusiasts, river conservationists, and more than 100 local paddling club affiliates across America. Our organization shares river safety, conservation, management, and logistical information with over 1 million people who access our website annually, through our social media channels, and through email and print media channels
including the American Whitewater Journal. River safety is a core component of our mission,
message, and advocacy. We have collected and shared accident reports for the whitewater
community for the past 50 years, representing the most comprehensive documentation of
boating-related accidents on whitewater rivers and their causes. Our National Whitewater
Inventory is an interactive database that provides paddlers of all abilities with current flow
information and detailed descriptions of nearly 6,000 river reaches across the country; this database includes difficulty ratings, known river features and hazards under different flow conditions, and crowd-sourced alerts notifying the public of changed conditions. River safety is a central component of our river stewardship work and since the beginning of our organization’s history we’ve worked to increase whitewater paddler awareness of safety as an integral part of river running. 

American Whitewater published the American Whitewater Safety Code originally in 1959, and has periodically updated it, the last time being in 2005. While the Safety Code is widely accepted and has been integrated into instructional programs across the country, many individuals visit rivers without exposure to, or awareness of, current swiftwater rescue techniques and the common hazards associated with whitewater boating. Building interest in river safety and educating paddlers in basic river safety skills, proper river running technique, and where and when rescue situations typically arise is a part of American Whitewater’s mission to enhance opportunities to enjoy rivers safely. Building on our experience and history as an organization committed to safety education, our relationships with river users who view us as a trusted source of safety information, and our leadership role within the boating community, we believe we are uniquely qualified to not only update and lead a purposeful campaign to distribute a more compelling version of our Safety Code, but also to produce and curate new river safety information via articles across multiple online platforms and in our print Journal, and  to distribute print materials and stickers that communicate whitewater safety basics and expose safety topics to a wide audience of river users, all based off the foundation of a revamped American Whitewater Safety Code. 

American Whitewater is an equal opportunity employer.


2. Project Goals and Scope of Services

Reaching novice, beginning and intermediate recreational boaters with whitewater specific safety messaging can be difficult, as it’s an often overlooked element of beginner instruction and may appear to be a less exciting aspect of learning the basics of recreational paddling. Many current materials covering boating safety do not cover elements of safe paddling that are exclusive to paddling whitewater, or they are aimed exclusively at advanced and expert paddlers. Paddlers interested in running whitewater may therefore miss learning the most basic elements of boating safety such as always wearing a proper lifejacket, along with life-saving basic safety knowledge specific to whitewater rivers, such as identifying and avoiding low head dams, wood strainers, undercut rocks, and other hazards. 

Our current safety code is distributed as a pamphlet and published on our website. While many experienced paddlers are exposed to our safety messages, we have observed that these formats for information distribution are not completely effective in reaching the broader recreational boating community. Compelling imagery and well crafted messages about whitewater boating are extremely popular among recreational boaters and will be an effective way to communicate basic safety messages with a broad group of river users. Other proposed outreach materials can be shared not only by American Whitewater online, at events and in our Journal, they can also be distributed by our partners and other stakeholders as a way to provide meaningful content that boaters can identify with, while encouraging safe boating practices at the same time. 

Proposed Activities 

Redesigned and Updated Safety Code: American Whitewater is looking for a graphic designer to produce a completely redesigned and updated Safety Code. The new Safety Code will be concise, visually compelling, and informational, covering necessary equipment, identifying hazards, and on-water safety skills and techniques for whitewater rivers. It will build upon the previous iterations of the Safety Code, which covered Personal Preparedness and Responsibility, Boat and Equipment Preparedness, Group Preparedness and Responsibility, Guidelines for River Rescue, Universal River Signals, and the International Scale of River Difficulty. 

American Whitewater will conduct a review of the safety code by expert river safety and rescue practitioners. Contractor will participate in this invitation based review which will include an online collaborative editing and commenting exercise, a webinar-based consensus-oriented discussion of significant topics, review of a draft revised Safety Code, and adoption of revised language. A significant element of the revision will be better content for a variety of river crafts, including standup paddle boards, river surfboards, pack rafts, and other inflatable craft. These emerging and quickly growing uses, which come with some distinct safety considerations, merit new advice in the Safety Code.  

We will then pair the revised language with new modern line art iconography by the contractor. The rough drawings in the current Safety Code feature outdated equipment and styling dating back over 30 years. This iconography will have broad uses beyond the Safety Code, including at a minimum river signage, websites including American Whitewater’s National Whitewater Inventory, films, and other river safety outreach materials. Some new iconography exists as a part of a previous Coast Guard funded river signage project and all other iconography will be developed by the contractor.

Contractor will be responsible for repackaging the Safety Code for easy consumption, distribution and availability to maximize its educational reach and impact. Contractor will create new professionally designed versions of the Safety Code in PDF, web, smartphone friendly and print format, plus will help develop versions of line-art iconography to be used in a variety of safety outreach materials. 

River Safety Industry Hangtags: Contractor will develop very basic river safety messaging, such as the necessity of wearing a life jacket, the meaning and use of the International Scale of River Difficulty, and other essential elements of the Safety Code, presented in a concise and easy to digest hangtag meant to be included with every river equipment purchase. American Whitewater will distribute these hangtags free of charge to our industry partners and any other river equipment manufacturers who are willing to distribute them.

Boater Identification Stickers: Contractor will develop simple boater ID stickers that make it easy for boaters to put identifying information on their craft. In the event of a rescue, where their craft or other gear is lost, these stickers allow rescue personnel or any other river traveler to easily identify whose equipment it is and contact them to make sure they are accounted for. These types of identification stickers can save rescue personnel a great deal of time and resources when they come across river equipment without an owner. Every unmanned paddlecraft is treated as a potential distress situation, however, when boats are properly labeled, situations can often be quickly resolved with a phone call to the vessel owner. Identification stickers also make the owner getting their paddlecraft back much more likely.  

Contractor will only be responsible for production and design of the digital formats of the safety code and associated materials. American Whitewater will pay for the production costs of all print and other material safety code outreach items.

3. Necessary Personnel and Associated Tasks

American Whitewater will retain the services of a contractor with vast experience in graphic design production and with minimum some experience on whitewater rivers. 

Graphic Designer (or Graphic Design Team): The Graphic Designer will lead the pre-production and production of Safety Code products, and will manage the various Safety Code’s iterations creative vision. They will give direction to safety experts to help them capture the most up to date safety information and develop compelling and informative graphics. Graphic Designer, with assistance from the Producer/Communications Director, will secure all necessary team members and relevant supplies. 

4. Skills and Experience of American Whitewater

We expect the successful applicant to utilize the skills and expertise of American Whitewater. 
American Whitewater staff have worked on dozens of river safety projects and have distributed the safety code for over a half-century. Evan Stafford is American Whitewater’s Communication Director and will oversee the project. He has over 15 years of professional experience with communications (video, print, online, and email), whitewater safety instruction, whitewater racing event safety, and project management. Kevin Colburn is American Whitewater’s National Stewardship Director and will provide technical expertise for this project; he has over 16 years of professional experience with river safety, risk management, and project management. Charlie Walbridge serves on the American Whitewater board and is a nationally recognized expert in whitewater safety and the organization’s Safety Editor. Charlie, who led our most recent update to the Safety Code of American Whitewater, will provide editorial assistance in a volunteer capacity. 

5. Anticipated Selection Schedule 

The Request for Proposal timeline is as follows:

Publication of Request for Proposal: November 7, 2022
Deadline for Bidders to Submit Questions: November 23, 2022
American Whitewater Responds to Bidder Questions: December 2, 2022
Deadline for Proposals: December 9, 2022
Selection of Top Bidders / Notification to Unsuccessful Bidders: December 21, 2022
Start of Negotiation: December 21, 2022
Contract Award: January 6, 2023

6. Time and Place of Submission of Proposals 

Responses must be received no later than December 9, 2022.
Responses should have the subject "American Whitewater Safety Code Update" and be emailed to Evan Stafford <> 

7. Timeline 

American Whitewater needs the project completed by September 30, 2023. Applicants should provide an approximate timeline for the project that can meet this deadline with review steps.

8. Elements of Proposal 

A submission must, at a minimum, include the following elements:

Cover Letter – Summarize your firm's interest in working on this project and outline the firm's strengths and distinguishing skills or capabilities as they relate to American Whitewater and the project.
Firm Information and Key Personnel – Describe the firm, individual, or team and fields of expertise. Identify the proposed project team. Supply names, brief summaries, roles for each team member, and qualifying experience.
Previous Experience – Provide a representative selection of projects created for current and past clients that best illustrate qualifications for the project. 
Project Approach – Provide a narrative statement demonstrating an understanding of the overall intent of the RFP, as well as methods used to complete assigned tasks.
Project Budget – Submit a proposed project budget itemized by task and total project cost. 

7. Evaluation Criteria 

The successful Applicant will:
Demonstrate in the submission a high level of design expertise and ability to create and complete the update of the whitewater safety code and outreach materials.
Demonstrate extensive prior experience in relevant graphic design work. 
Have some experience with nonprofits and working on a nonprofit budget.

8. Budget 

American Whitewater's budget for this project is ~$20-30,000.

Evan Stafford

Fort Collins, CO 80524

Phone: 970-420-5378
Full Profile
Join AW and support river stewardship nationwide!