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KCSO and Kern River Conservancy launch river safety campaign

Posted at 8:30 PM, Apr 24, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-24 23:36:44-04

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — The heat wave has arrived in Kern County, meaning more people are taking to the Kern River for some fun, but officials want to ensure everyone is safe this year when they're enjoying the water.

23ABC News spoke to officials with the Kern River Conservancy about the new campaign they are launching with the Kern County Sheriff’s Office. The educational campaign is centered around river safety.

During this time of year officials said more people come to the Kern River to enjoy events or to look for a fun place to cool off. However, this year they hope that through education less people will be at risk.

"River safety week is a collaboration between multiple agencies to bring awareness to moving water such as the Kern River, Lake Isabella, Lake Ming and Hart Park areas where there are incidents where people have to be rescued or they drown," Kern River Conservancy non-profit director Gary Ananian said.

According to Ananian having a good time starts with being prepared, "You need to know what you are capable of as a person...are you a strong swimmer? Do you suffer from hypothermia when the water is super cold?"

Since 1968, 294 people have died on the Kern River, but KCSO says that number will likely change next week when officials take a look at the new fatality data collected.

"So 99 percent of the time that these people are drowning in the river they are not wearing PFD’s or personal floatation devices, second is they are usually intoxicated.. they have been drinking all day in the summer heat and then they decide to go in the water and you kind of lose your bearings when you're in a rapid. The white water kind of spins you around and just takes you," Ananian said.

In order to prevent fatalities on the river KCSO and the Kern River Conservancy said they will be using their new three-part river safety campaign to educated the community.

“We are going to cover a variety of different things, everything from self-rescue to reading water currents," Ananian said. "Just the basic stuff so that when you are out there you kind of understand," Ananian said.

Over the course of a week, KCSO and Kern River Conservancy will discuss previous fatalities, conduct water safety demonstrations, safe camping reminders, recommend rafting equipment and more for the media to help spread the word to the public.

“Our goal is to teach the public, to teach the tourists how to come over here and still enjoy the river but being safe at the same time," Ananian said.

Officials said this year the Kern River is expected to be higher than before due to the snow melt and they highly recommend that you book your trip with a certified trained guide to help ensure your safety on the water.