Local water-rescue teams offer swimming and boating safety tips

News Release from: Clackamas Co. Sheriff's Office

Posted: Monday, June 1, 2015


Photos: [ 1 ] [ 2 ]

River enforcementSummer is just around the corner -- and with it, the fun-in-the-sun and water activities.

There are many things we can do to make those activities -- which include boating, swimming, floating, and fishing -- fun and safe experiences.

"Drowning is a preventable tragedy," says Lt. Robert Wurpes, who supervises the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office Marine Patrol. "Often by the time you realize you're in trouble, it's already too late -- but some basic safety practices can prevent that."

Wurpes says one of the most common excuses he hears about people not wearing personal floatation devices (PFDs) is, "I'm a good swimmer." "But even a good swimmer can be overcome -- quickly -- by injury, cold, exhaustion, and fear," he says. "The best practice is to wear it."

Other water-safety tips from the National Institutes of Health include:

  • Learn CPR.
  • Never swim alone.
  • Don't dive into water unless you're sure of the depth.
  • Know your limits -- don't over-exert yourself.
  • Avoid drinking alcohol during water activities, including swimming, diving and boating. Do not drink while supervising children. The risk is high and the consequences can be lethal.
  • Do not leave children unattended around water. This includes wading pools and bathtubs.
  • Provide children with swim lessons.

Wurpes also notes that attempting to rescue another swimmer in distress is very dangerous. Trained rescuers teach and use a protocol called "Talk, Reach, Throw, Row":

  1. TALK. First, call 911 -- then talk to the person and see if you can coach them to swim to you on shore or to a boat.
  2. REACH. Next you can try to reach to them by extending a pole, branch, or inflatable boat. Do not allow them to grab hold of your body, as they may try to pull you in.
  3. THROW. You can throw a distressed person a life jacket, life ring, rope or any other object that will help them stay afloat.
  4. ROW. If necessary, use a boat to get to the person.

Other important safety tips:

  • The water is colder than you think. Even in late spring, the water is still bone-chilling. Underestimating river swiftness and temperature has led to several tragic drownings on county waterways in recent years. Don't let poor judgment turn you into a sad statistic.
  • Check river conditions before going out on Clackamas County rivers. If it seems like the water may be too treacherous, it's wise to wait until later in the season when the waters have receded and warmed.
  • Be knowledgeable of the water environment and its potential hazards -- such as deep and shallow areas, currents, depth changes, obstructions and where the entry and exit points are located. If you aren't sure you're swimming in a safe place, DON'T SWIM.
  • If you operate a power boat, be sure to get your Boater Education Card.
  • All boats, no matter how big or small, need one wearable PFD for each person on board, anyone under the age of 12 has to wear it at all times while the boat is underway.

To learn more about the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office Marine Unit, click here.


News-release archive

Contact Info:
Sergeant Nathan Thompson
Office of Public Information
Clackamas County Sheriff's Office