Chief’s Corner: Water safety is key at Tahoe

Ryan Sommers

Summer is in full swing here at Lake Tahoe. Whether boating, paddleboarding, swimming, or kayaking on the lake, water safety is particularly important especially with the colder temperatures. The average water temperature in Lake Tahoe in July is 65.7 degrees.

When boating on Lake Tahoe it is recommended to always wear a life jacket. While regulations on life jacket use vary from state to state, the Wear It program, promotes boating safely by encouraging boaters to wear life jackets any time they are on a boat, motorized or non-motorized.

The National Safe Boating Council recommends following the “Boating Safety Seven.” 

  • Wear your life jacket
  • Take a boating safety class
  • Carry all required safety gear
  • Use your engine cut-off switch
  • File a float plan
  • Be aware of weather and water conditions
  • Boat sober, and be considerate of others

Good swimmers still need life jackets. When people fall off a boat, they may become disoriented, injured, or unconscious. Life jackets can keep victims’ heads above water so they can breathe and be rescued more easily.

There are many styles of lifejackets, choose the right one for the activities you will be doing. Make sure the life jacket is U.S. Coast Guard approved and that it fits correctly for your size and weight and is properly fastened. If you are paddle boarding, in addition to wearing a life jacket, please remember to fasten the safety leash to your ankle so you are always attached to it. In the event of a fall, the paddle board can serve as an extra floatation device. 

Before setting out, be prepared. Check to make sure that all equipment is in good working order. Review a pre-departure checklist and that you have everything you need such as a tool kit and first-aid kit. File a float plan with someone you trust before you leave. Dress properly and bring an extra set of clothes. Remember to wear and bring sunscreen. It is also a good idea to check the weather before heading out. Lake and wind conditions on Lake Tahoe can change rapidly, leading to dangerous conditions for smaller vessels and paddle craft.

No matter what your activity of choice, exercising good judgement, respecting your limits, and keeping within your limits will keep you and those around you safe. Recreate responsibly.

Ryan Sommers is fire chief for the North Lake Tahoe Fire Protection District.

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