-- Last Updated: Aug-03-11 9:57 AM EST --
I agree with everything in this post on safety. I would add a couple more comments to increase the potential for safe trips.
1. Know your team! If you are paddling solo, you are only responsible for yourself and that adds a level of risk. If you are paddling as a group, this can add safety and can also increase risk to yourself and everyone else. This is not only related to paddling skills, but personalities and decision making. Some people are rigid and argumentative or the other extreme of being submissive. Your team leader needs to be someone that is well equipped to compromise and understand limitations of paddlers and conditions, take that information and lead effectively.
2. A good safety plan should always include medical information for emergency situations which is carried by at least 50% of the people in the group. No matter how well you know your friends of 20 years or more, in an emergency situation it would be doubtful if you know or can recall information such as an emergency contact name and phone number with a back-up name and phone number. Insurance provider information, blood type, and other important medical information such as allergies and existing medical conditions like diabetes or having a pacemaker should also be obtained for each member of the group and printed on a sheet of paper and saved in a drybag.
These are two small additions to your trip safety that can make a huge difference when an unforeseen and rare situation can come up. Nobody ever plans to "need" to roll their boat or use a flare, but many of us have this skill or equipment, having this other knowledge above is just as valuable and far more simplistic to obtain.