Guide to staying safe in the lakes, rivers this summer

Published: Jul. 3, 2020 at 11:24 PM PDT
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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) - Our area lakes and rivers will be popular spots for the holiday weekend.

They can also be very dangerous.

The current in the Truckee River and the waves in Lake Tahoe don't look like much of a threat. Just because something doesn't seem like a threat doesn't mean it is safe.

“Moving water makes holes and obstacles and washes garbage into things that you can get tangled with and you’re not going to see it easily from the surface,” said Bill Macaulay, a 40 year veteran with the Washoe County Sheriff’s Hasty Team.

Macaulay has been on thousands of calls over his career. In his experience people who aren't wearing life jackets, or have been drinking too much, are at the top of the list when it comes to needing help.

“One of the effects of alcohol is it’s a vasodilator,” Macaulay said. “What that means is you get more blood flow to the skin. When you do hit the cold water and you’re already on the outside of a few too many beers you’re going to get a whole lot faster and it’s going to zap your strength a whole lot faster.”

Going out on the lake or playing in the river is also a fun family activity. But kids can be tough to keep track of. Staying together and in large groups is a good rule of thumb to ensure no one wanders off or drowns.

“I’ve heard the saying ‘if everyone is watching the kids, no one is watching the kids,’ Macaulay said. “You have to have somebody who is specifically designated to look out for the kids.”

Rescuers also recommend letting someone in town know where you're going and when you plan to be back. If someone gets lost on the water calling 9-1-1 sooner rather than later is always a good idea.

“Knowing where they disappeared and how long ago, particularly in the river, is a really big deal because that tells us how far downstream we have to put our containment,” Macaulay said.

May through September is Hasty’s busiest months, according to Macaulay. Roughly a third of their rescue calls are water related. Plan ahead, know your boundaries, and be smart.

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