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Floating the North Platte? Casper Fire-EMS asks for help determining rescue vs. lost watercraft cases

A group of friends prepare to take a float on the North Platte River on Monday, July 3, 2017 at the Robertson Road Public Access Area. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City)

CASPER, Wyo. — When people float the North Platte River in summer months they sometimes become separated from watercraft or flotation devices, which can lead to possible emergency calls to first responder agencies in the area.

“Very often, we receive calls for rescue when empty watercraft and floatation devices are found,” Casper Fire-EMS said in a press release on Saturday. “When these calls are received, they are treated as a drowning incident until proven otherwise. A full complement of resources will respond and remain on scene until resolved.”

While people are still encouraged to call 911 in the event of a suspected river emergency, Casper Fire-EMS said that floaters can take some steps to help first responder agencies best manage their resources.

People who become separated from watercraft devices are asked to contact non-emergency numbers when it is safe to do so.

“If you become separated, when it is safe to do so, call the non-emergency number for Casper Dispatch at 307-235-8278,” the release said. “The dispatcher will obtain information and a description of your watercraft.”

“When this is done, if we receive a call, we can determine much quicker the likelihood that there is a victim in the water or not. This will allow us to respond with appropriate resources while balancing availability of resources for other emergencies.”

Floaters are also encouraged to mark their watercraft with a name and contact information to help ensure speedy communication if a lost watercraft is found. People can use permanent marker or place contact information in a cargo or storage area of the craft.

“PLEASE NOTE! In asking for this assistance from river users, it does not mean that we are asking the public to not call 911 in the event of a suspected river incident,” Casper Fire-EMS said. “If you see an unmanned watercraft or are concerned with any other activity on the river that is a life safety issue, PLEASE CALL 911 IMMEDIATELY!”