Lake Tahoe Fire Chief’s Corner: Water safety at Lake Tahoe (opinion)
With summer in full swing it’s a good time to review summer water safety tips specific to Lake Tahoe.
We all know the temperature of Tahoe is a bit colder than most since it is an alpine lake.
Whether boating, jet skiing, kayaking, rafting, paddle boarding or swimming, it’s prudent to inform yourself about the colder temperatures of Lake Tahoe and how it can affect you. It’s also a good idea to check the red flag warning status. You can find this information at http://www.wrh.noaa.gov.
As the winter runoff continues to melt and make its way to the lake, the water temperatures will fluctuate between 65-70 degrees August through September. Lake Tahoe is the second deepest lake in the United States and because of this the temperatures remain lower than most lakes in our region year-round.
We respond to numerous water emergencies on the lake not just during the summer months but throughout the year. We encourage everyone to please review the following safety precautions before recreating on Lake Tahoe.
BOAT SAFE: PREPARE FOR COLD WATER AT LAKE TAHOE
Wear a life jacket.
Carry a whistle or horn.
Dress for the water temperature, not the air temperature.
Check the weather forecast for wind conditions.
Never go in the water alone.
Don’t drink alcohol while operating a boat.
File a float plan and leave it with a friend or family.
BOAT/swim SMART — KNOW THE DANGERS OF COLD WATER AT LAKE TAHOE
Cold Water Shock: Can cause a powerful gasp reflex when entering the water. You have approximately 1 minute to get your breathing under control.
Swim Failure: You only have about 10 minutes of strength in your arms and legs for self-rescue.
Hypothermia: Even in ice water it could take about 1 hour before losing consciousness. You only have this time if you are wearing a life jacket.
Cold Water: Defined as water that is 70 degrees and below. Tahoe water temps range from 40 degrees in winter to 70 degrees in summer. Lake Tahoe water is always cold.
Survival: Time in cold water is greatly increased when you wear a life jacket.
Drowning: Can happen to anyone, even good swimmers.
SWIM SAFE: PREPARE FOR COLD WATER AT LAKE TAHOE
Wear a life jacket and know your swimming limitations.
Enter the water slowly.
Feet first, first time.
Never swim alone.
Respect the dangers of cold water.
Check the weather for wind conditions http://www.weather.gov/.
File a “float plan” before boating and leave with a friend or loved ones.
Please swim smart and safe, know the dangers of cold water. Educate yourself and wear a life jacket anytime you’re in the water, it can save your life.
Ryan Sommers is fire chief of North Lake Tahoe Fire Protection District.