sheriff’s-department-talks-boating-safety

Sheriff’s department talks boating safety

RED BLUFF — Tehama County Sheriff’s Sgt. Mark Levindofske spent Thursday morning at the Jackson Heights Elementary School talking with SERRF students about boating safety.

The AquaSmart program is part of the Sheriff’s Boating Unit. It is funded through the California Department of Boating and Waterways with state boat taxes and registration fees, said Levindofske, the only full-time employee of the unit.

Supplemented by five boating safety officers as needed, Levindofske patrols about 85 miles of the Sacramento River and Black Butte Lake.

Tehama County Sheriff’s Sgt. Mark Levindofske talks with students Tuesday at a Jackson Heights SERRF boating safety presentation.(Julie Zeeb — Daily News)

“Always have a life jacket and always have a swim buddy with you,” Levindofske said. “You never swim alone.”

Those who are 12 and younger are required to have a Coast Guard approved life jacket on and those older must have a properly fitting life jacket nearby, available to grab quickly if needed. Anyone on a jet ski, regardless of age, must where a life jacket.

Make sure the life jacket is the appropriate size for the person. Too big and it could come right off, too small and it won’t be able to hold the person afloat. It must be able to buckle.

Discussion included dangers found in the water, such as rocks and tree stumps, as well as how to float in a safe manner if you end up in the water. Those floating on their backs should float feet first so as they can better see and use their feet to brace for impact.

Should a friend fall in the water, Levindofske told the children to remember three methods for helping them out, which include reaching, throwing and rowing. If the person is in close proximity whether on shore or in the boat, try reaching with an arm or a leg. If you can’t reach, look a long stick, an oar or a net on a pole to hold out.

If someone is out of reach of everything you have with you, the next best thing is to throw something something buoyant to them, such as a beach ball, inner tube, life preserver or even an ice chest.

For the really far away situations, you can row a boat or an inflatable air mattress out to the person, but first make sure that you have a personal flotation device on. People can panic, so protect oneself and make sure you will be able to stay afloat first, Levindofske said.

It is never a good idea to dive into a river or lake. Unlike a pool, you can’t easily see the bottom and there could be rocks or debris.

Balancing the load in a boat is important as uneven weight distribution can cause a boat to capsize. Be mindful of the strength of the water.

“The biggest issue I see is that people don’t respect or understand the power of the water,” Levindofske said. “The Sacramento River usually runs between 45 and 60 degrees and at those temperatures your body can suffer from cold shock response, cold incapacitation and hypothermia.”

Even when water appears slow on the top, there are potential dangers underneath and it moves quickly.

“The river is always changing and especially so after a rough winter or flood season,” Levindofske said. “The river bank erodes and trees fall in and come to rest in areas that were clear the previous year.”

Wednesday, the sheriff’s department responded to an incident involving a kayak that caught on a stick and overturned. Two teenagers were rescued, but the kayak is still there. There have been several recent incidents of kayaks and other vessels getting stuck and needing to be rescued.

“It’s the highest flow I’ve seen in the five years I’ve been in the boating unit,” Levindofske said.

If a person does go into the river while boating, stay near the boat if possible as it will be more visible. Wave your arms to draw attention and have a whistle attached to the life jacket.

Those planning a trip down the river are encouraged to file a float plan with the Boating Safety Unit. Plans can be found on the Department of Boating and Waterways website.

To see about scheduling an educational presentation for a group, call 529-4172 during business hours.

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