The Rescue Instructors Association  (RIA) was founded in 1984, in California, by Jim Segerstrom, Larry Gibson, Warren Berg, Rob McCloud, and Mike Croslin. The RIA was to act as an informal “certification group” for their various rescue training operations.  In 1990, with international members joining, it became the International Rescue Instructors Association (IRIA).

Ice Training Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

The credibility, or the group’s strength, was based on the informal “membership” of a number of court recognized, subject-matter experts, in their various fields.

The founding principle was, that the courts were the ultimate regulatory body in most democracies and that a consensus or court recognized subject-matter experts or witnesses would provide the most meaningful, applicable and defendable standards

This group developed a basic philosophy for rescue training and the concept of the Absolutes.

The RIA / IRIA acted as an “independent group” of international, court recognized, subject-matter experts and was used by a number of training groups, including the original Swiftwater Rescue Program from 1984 to 1998, as an “informal backing” for the Certificates of Attendance/Participation given to people who took their workshops.

At that time Rescue Canada and others began developing defined standards based on meaningful, proven, best practices protocols and accepted education/certification principles.  This was closely followed by changes to the course structures, to reflect these Standards.

In 1998, many original members had retired and the majority who stayed  had decided to self-certify.  They felt that the development of an independent, third party, certification body, no longer provided value nor served a purpose for their business models.

IRIA in Transition

However, in 1999 a number of instructors who were committed to meaningful, performance-based training, and professional, certification and accreditation standards, began to formalize the IRIA, headed by Jim Segerstrom (USA), Jez Hunter (UK) and Jim Lavalley (Canada).

That year, funding was raised, and the IRIA was formalized as the International Rescue Instructors Alliance, based on the work Canadian and US instructors had begun in 1995.

In 2000, a glossary of legally based definitions was developed and the initial standards structure was set out.   These written standards included those relating to course level, structure, content and delivery, instructor standards, certification, accreditation and audit standards and operational standards.

In 2004 the Risk Management Matrix® was first formalized by Jim Lavalley (Canada) to objectively, quantify risk in the moving water environment.  The Matrix  has been continually developed and forms the foundation of the IRIA Standards.  Since then the Matrix has been expanded to include other subject areas.

A new website was built in 2005 and an Executive Director appointed in 2006.

In 2007, Jez Hunter (UK) began the process of structuring the IRIA  to be compliant with ISO 9001, specifically the audit procedures as applied to IRIA membership.

 In 2008 and new chapter in the IRIA began with development of professional relationships in Europe, Asia, and North and South America.

Currently, the IRIA is completing formal restructuring to be compliant with ISO 15489-2001 Records Management and ISO 31000-2009 (Risk Management Principles and Guidelines), in addition to ISO 9001-2008 (Quality Management).


In the fall of 2011, the decision was made to develop a web based application that would make the IRIA fully accessible to the membership 24/7 anywhere in the world that had connectivity.  An Advisory board was created to provide leadership and execute a new strategic plan.


The IRIA is restructuring to serve the mission and vision set by Jim Segerstrom . Board Members are being appointed as advisors and regions are being addressed.


 The future  is an open book to be developed and written by and for the new members and the people they serve, as the transition team passes the torch to the next generation of Rescue Professionals.