Reservoir safety: Safe Boating Week set for May 18-24

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As Geist Reservoir users begin to enjoy the water, the Fishers Police Dept. and America’s Boating Club of Central Indiana are educating boaters on some of the lesser-known watercraft dangers.

From noon to 3 p.m. May 19, America’s Boating Club of Central Indiana representatives will be at the Geist Marina, 11695 Fall Creek Rd., to present boating-related information, demonstrations and activities. The event is in conjunction with National Safe Boating Week (May 18-24).

“Last year, there was something like over 800 boating deaths in the United States,” said Jason Settles, communications officer for America’s Boating Club of Central Indiana. “Most of these things are attributed to operator error, just not knowing something or not having the proper training. (Operators) are kind of like, ‘It’s a boat, I can drive this,’ but actually, you can’t. To drive a car and fly a plane, you have to have a license. To drive a boat, you don’t (need a license), as long as you are 16 and have a drivers’ license.”

Boating skills training and free vessel checks will be offered at the event.

“The big thing we are going to have is we are going to have a virtual boat training computer and basically, it’s three monitors set up, and it gives the visual view of this lake and you can set it to practice things, anything from docking to departing the dock to maneuvering in channels and currents and just a variety of things,” Settles said. “People can actually test their skills without being in any danger.”

Settles said a hidden danger most boaters aren’t aware of is carbon monoxide poisoning.

“Carbon monoxide poisoning is a big problem on boats,” Settles said. “Most people don’t even have a detector in their homes. We had an experienced boater friend of ours on Lake Michigan that died because he didn’t know (about carbon monoxide) and was inside sleeping on his boat.”

America’s Boating Club of Central Indiana Commander Mike Crowell said even smaller boats without a cabin can cause carbon monoxide poisoning.

“Even with small boats on Geist, the ones with the ski platform on the back of the boat, the exhaust is oftentimes underneath that platform,” Crowell said. “If one gets a lung-full of the full-strength stuff, you’re in trouble.”

To prevent such issues, Crowell suggests not putting the boat in neutral when picking up passengers from the water. He recommends turning the engine off.

ln another effort to promote safety, the Fishers Police Dept. has approximately 30 officers who can operate the department’s public safety boat, which boat patrols the reservoir. FPD officer Mike Janes said the most common issues are wake-zone violations and intoxicated boaters. However, Janes has seen fewer intoxicated boaters in recent years on Geist Reservoir.

“Violating idle zones and reckless operation, those things lead to signs of someone impaired,” Janes said. “A lot of times, we encounter people unrelated to (drinking) but then see the signs of intoxication.”

Janes said FPD patrols the water each weekend at different times. The Dept. of Natural Resources polices the lake more so during the week.

The FPD operates a 27-foot Boston Whaler that it shares with the Fishers Fire Dept. The boat is equipped with a pump that applies lake water onto a fire.

The Fishers Police Dept. and the Fishers Fire Dept. share a 27-foot Boston Whaler for public safety use on Geist Reservoir.

When an emergency happens on the lake

FPD officer Mike Janes said if a homeowner calls the police from their home, it’s easy for authorities to navigate the boat to the issue because they have the house address. However, if a boater is in distress on the water and they are unsure of their location, it’s more difficult for first responders to find them.

“If someone calls in and they don’t know where they are, give us landmarks nearby or give us the GPS coordinates off your phone,” Janes said. “But if they know they’re near the Olio Road boat ramp, the sailing club, the dam, or the islands south by the dam, all those things help us locate them quickly.”

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