Thanks to the efforts of Float Penticton, locating those in need of help while floating down the Okanagan River channel will be easier for emergency services.
Nicholas Kruger, founder of the shuttle service that helps channel-goers get to and from the river, announced that he and his team will be installing two-sided markers along the 7.4 km channel in order to help floaters and pedestrians better identify where they are along the route. He added that he is happy to donate the supplies and have his staff install the signs because it’s good for the community, not just his business.
“I just thought that it needs to be done, and now that I’m part of the river I want to reach out and do that,” said Kruger. “I know this has been needed for a while. Our number one hope is that no one will ever get hurt, and people do a good job of looking after each other on the river.”
The first markers will be added at each kilometre mark along the river, with the possibility of adding more along the route as needed. Kruger said they should be up in the near future, as he and his team have been busy adding the fence posts over the past two days while they wait for the markers to be constructed.
“The river is 7.4 km long so we’ll do the first seven at each kilometre and then when we get a little more money and supplies, we’ll go back and add half-kilometre markers,” said Kruger.
Penticton Fire Department Deputy Chief Chris Forster said these markers will be invaluable for first responders that get called out to assist with emergencies on the channel. He said most calls for service to the channel come from passersby who witness someone struggling in the water, and often they are unable to precisely describe where the person is.
“Anything that helps expedite our response time to get to people in need is a good thing, so we’re definitely in support of it,” said Forster. “They’ll say things like near the Green Mountain Road bridge or halfway between two different points, and our delay usually results from poor communication about the location exactly.”
The number of emergency calls regarding people in the Okanagan River Channel varies year to year, according to Forster, who said factors such as river height and flow speed can make for unfavourable conditions for floaters. He said some years the department responds to as few as four to five calls and other years they receive over a dozen.
“In terms of safety on the river, personal flotation devices are always recommended but the other main safety tip is we always encourage to not tie the tubes together,” said Forster. “We know that everyone wants to stay together, but the trouble hits when they hit the abutments at the bridges. Then people can get overturned or trapped inside their float.”
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