Cool down safely: Kern River, water safety advice

June 20, 2014 | 9:32 am


Earlier this week, Kern County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue team were called out to the Kern River to assist with four people who became stranded.

Two adult women and two children, ages 4 and 5, were rafting down the Kern River on rafts that were tied together. The children were knocked off their rafts by the dangerous Kern River current and the group lost their rafts, media reported according to the Kern County Sheriff’s Office.

Luckily, the children wore life vests, and the group made it to shore of the river, but they became stranded in an area where they could not get safely out of the river with the small children. That’s when the group called the attention of a worker nearby, who called rescue officials, who brought all four back to safety. Most importantly, none of them required medical attention.

The news related to the Kern River isn’t always as positive. In fact, the search is currently ongoing for a 19-year-old who was last seen swimming in the Kern River, Bakersfield and Kern Valley media reported. (Update on this case below)

Recently, Kern County Search and Rescue held a ceremony to change the number on the sign at the mouth of the Kern Canyon to represent two lives lost last year on the river. Total fatalities lost from the Kern River since 1968 is now at 269.

It’s important to keep this number and other safety measures in mind when visiting the Kern River during the summer — which officially begins June 21 this year — as well as when enjoying the cool water at home, or around Bakersfield and Kern County.

Safety officials recommend you stay out of the river, but if you do decide to go in and around the Kern River, here are safety tips to consider:

  • The Kern River may seem cool, calm and inviting, but underneath the water can lie a bed of traps that could suck you in.
  • Always wear a life vest every time you get in the river.
  • Don’t drink alcohol while in the river, as it can hinder judgment and can cause you to become disoriented or lethargic.
  • Do not use flotation devices, like inner tubes, because they can pop or slip away.
  • If you are swept away by the water, do not cling onto anything or try to fight the current because you will likely get tired and you will drown.
  • If you do get swept by the water, keep your feet above water and flatten your body to float. And resist trying to touch the bottom of the river with your feet.

Many of the safety measures applied to the Kern River can be considered for water safety around town, and around the house, too. Here are a few water safety tips courtesy of the Bakersfield personal injury attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles.

  • Supervision is the key word when it comes to pool safety. Never leave children alone in or near the pool, even for a moment. Don’t be distracted by doorbells, phone calls, chores or conversation. If you must leave the pool area, take the children with you, making sure the pool gate latches securely when it closes.
  • Always keep your eyes on the children. Designate a child watcher, whether you or someone else, when you attend a party or have friends or family over.
  • You must put up a fence to separate your house from the pool. Most young children who drown in pools wander out of the house and fall into the pool. Install a fence at least 4 feet high around all 4 sides of the pool. This fence will completely separate the pool from the house and play area of the yard. Use gates that self-close and self-latch, with latches higher than your children’s reach.
  • Keep rescue equipment (such as a shepherd’s hook or life preserver) and a telephone by the pool.
  • Do not let your child use air-filled “swimming aids” because they are not a substitute for approved life vests and can be dangerous.
  • Children under the age of 3 and children who cannot swim must wear a life jacket or personal floatation device.
  • Anyone watching young children around a pool should learn CPR and be able to rescue a child if needed. Stay within an arm’s length of your child.
  • Remove all toys from the pool after use so children are not tempted to reach for them.
  • After the children are done swimming, secure the pool so they can’t get back into it.
  • Send children to swimming and water safety lessons.
  • Talk with babysitters about pool safety, supervision and drowning prevention.
  • Post rules such as “no running,” “no pushing,”, “no dunking,” and “never swim alone”. Enforce the rules.
  • Don’t assume that drowning or a drowning incident couldn’t happen to you or your family.
  • Empty wading pools immediately after use and turn them over.
  • Remember, teaching your child how to swim does not mean your child is safe in water.

And throughout Kern County, cooling centers are open and available to help local residents cope with the punishing heat wave. Young children and the elderly are encouraged to take advantage of the center, as they are particularly vulnerable to extreme heat, according Kern County Department of Public Health.

The cooling centers are open from 1 to 8 p.m. when the temperature is forecast by the National Weather Service to reach the following temperatures:

  • 105 degrees in the San Joaquin and Kern River valleys
  • 95 degrees in Frazier Park
  • 108 degrees in desert locations

The centers are scattered across various areas of the county, including two in Bakersfield. Residents of greater Bakersfield who need transportation to a cooling center should contact Get-a-Lift at 869-6363. Those in outlying areas can contact Kern Regional Transit Network at 800-560-1733. Residents of California City should call Dial A Ride at 760-373-8665.

For more information, including cooling center opening times and days, go to www.co.kern.ca.us.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles wishes everyone a fun and safe summer, and a happy Fourth of July. For more water and summer safety tips, go to chainlaw.com, or read our summer safety tips at bloggingforjustice.com.

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UPDATE: The body of Roberto Dominguez III was recovered on Thursday, June 26, after a more than four-hour effort by volunteers, media reported. His body was stuck in rocks near a waterfall in what the Kern County Sheriff’s Office described as a dangerous portion of the river. A family member had initially seen the body on Wednesday.