As Oklahomans prepare to take their boats to lakes and rivers throughout the state, local resident Mike Cook with the Coast Guard Auxiliary gives some useful information that could potentially save lives.

"This is the boating season, and people need to realize that the Coast Guard reported in its latest statistics that there were 750 fatalities in the United States, with more than 4,000 injuries and over $40 million in property damage," Cook said.

"Most of those could have been reduced if people would have realized just one thing; that with operating a boat, they're in command. And the responsibility of making sure that boat is in safe, working condition belongs to that person in command, and the best way to do that is to get a vessel safety check."

Cook was affiliated with the Robert S. Kerr Lab Environmental Research Center before retiring and began his involvement with the Coast Guard Auxiliary five years ago, while performing work on Lake Texoma.

"I got involved when we were on a lake survey on Lake Texoma through Kerr Lab. I took care of the lab's boats and got involved in the Coast Guard Auxiliary for training purposes. I liked the ideas they promoted and I joined," Cook said.

According to the Coast Guard Auxiliary website, the Coast Guard Auxiliary is comprised of more than 35,000 volunteers worldwide and are a civilian, non-military organization established by Congress in 1939 to assist the Coast Guard with all missions except military operations and law enforcement. The auxiliary generally promotes boating safety.

"We support their program, and we teach the boating courses for them," he said. "We also inspect vessels and go on safety patrols with them. All the Coast Guard operations we do, we're trained and qualified just as the Coast Guard is."

Cook said he is a flotilla commander on Lake Texoma within the Coast Guard Auxiliary. "There's six flotillas in Oklahoma, and with about 125 members of the Coast Guard Auxiliary in Oklahoma, we work Texoma, and most of the lakes and the Arkansas River," he said.

Volunteers or interested parties would gain a wealth of knowledge and education, according to Cook.

"People can get excellent training in the boating area from joining (the auxiliary)," he said. "Training, as far as working with the public, provides a sense of accomplishment. When we had the coast guard down there during Hurricane Katrina, they did approximately 5,000 search and rescues, which is more than the Coast Guard has done in five years. People from the auxiliary went and helped set up radio stations. They just need to find an area of the Coast Guard Auxiliary they like and we'll train them in that area."

For additional information about the Coast Guard Auxiliary, contact Cook at (580) 332-5264.