Avoid drowning from cold water shock

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An average of seven people drown in Lake Tahoe every year due to cold-water shock, according to Take Care Tahoe. These drownings are preventable by wearing a life jacket.

When a person falls or jumps into cold, alpine water, the first instinct is to gasp in shock – cold water shock. This initial reaction sets off a chain reaction that often leads to drowning. Life jackets give people a few minutes to control their breathing, calm down and self-rescue. Without a life jacket, most people experiencing cold water shock will quickly drown.

By law, all boaters on Lake Tahoe must always have a life vest with them while on the lake, including paddleboarders. Children younger than 13 years old are required to always wear a life vest. Adults should also always wear a life vest. | takecaretahoe.org

Before going out, check the weather, including the wind. | tahoe.ucdavis.edu/lake-conditions

Water safety tips

  • Children younger than 13 must wear life jackets while on a vessel in Nevada and California, including standup paddleboards, kayaks, personal watercraft and other craft.
  • Everyone should wear a life jacket and a SUP leash. If you fall in, it will keep your head above water and keep you insulated.
  • Drinking and boating is the same crime as drinking and driving.
  • Paddling is boating and subject to the same rules and safety guidelines.
  • Take a boat education class to learn boat safety. Online boating courses are offered free at boatus.org/nevada or boatus.org/california.
  • All boaters in California aged 60 and older are required to have a California Boater Card available at californiaboatercard.com.
  • Pay attention to changing wind and weather conditions.
  • Avoid cold water shock and hypothermia — enter water slowly and control your breathing.
  • Always wear bright colors, carry bright paddles along with a whistle and flashlight.
  • Notify someone of your departure location and time and when you plan to return.
  • Stay close to shore when paddling and swimming to avoid boat traffic.