Tips of being water-smart this summer
It’s summer, it’s hot, That has many people heading to the cottage, a beach, swimming pool, or out to enjoy the water on a boat.
While all of this helps you cool off, it could also put you in danger.
According to the Lifesaving Society, drowning is the No. 1 cause of unintentional death in Canada among children 1-4 years of age and the second leading cause of preventable death for children under 10 years. With some 500 fatalities annually, drowning is the third leading cause of death among Canadians under age 60, surpassed only by motor vehicle collisions and poisoning. Sixty-six per cent of drownings occur from May to September.
That’s why the Lifesaving Society, a leader, and partner in the delivery of water safety education throughout this country and the world, holds its annual National Drowning Prevention Week in the third week of July. This year, it runs from July 17 -23.
Their aim is to increase awareness of the risks associated with activities in, on, and around the water and to modify at-risk behaviour to eliminate drowning and water-related injury.
The Drowning Prevention Research Centre’s inaugural report on non-fatal drowning in Ontario, 2021 describes 5,430 emergency department visits and 953 hospitalizations due to non-fatal drowning that occurred during 2010–2019. Of note:
- For every fatal drowning, there were nearly four non-fatal drownings that required a visit to an emergency department.
- Non-fatal drowning rates were highest among children and youth. This differs from fatal drowning trends in Ontario where rates are highest among older people.
- Males accounted for approximately two-thirds of non-fatal drownings, which also differs from fatal drownings where males account for close to 80 per cent.
Keeping these sobering statistics in mind, it’s a good idea to review water safety with every member of your family no matter what their age. It’s particularly important if you are enjoying recreational activities on the water in a place you are not familiar with.
The Canadian Red Cross recommends these tips for water and boating safety:
Always actively supervise
- The absence of adult supervision is a factor in most child drownings.
- Whether it's a pool, the bathtub, a water park, or the beach, always watch children actively around water - even if they can swim. The Lifesaving Society says if you are an arm’s length away that’s too far.
- Consider requiring all non-swimmers to wear a lifejacket to keep them at the surface to assist you while supervising.
- Stay sober in, on, and around the water.
- Backyard pools are hazardous for small children. Ensure adequate barriers such as four-sided fencing (recommended at least 1.2 m in height, with gaps no larger than 10 cm) are in place, along with a self-closing, self-latching gate.
- Empty portable toddler pools after each use.
- Diving headfirst into water should be avoided unless the person is properly trained and is sure the water is deep enough.
- Avoid diving in home pools and always enter the water feet-first.
- Never underestimate the power of a current. Swimmers or waders can be swept away immediately, particularly if non-swimmers or weak swimmers get caught by a current in rivers or are out of their depth in abrupt drop-offs.
- Be cautious about swimming in currents and know what to do if caught in one.
In addition, the Lifesaving Society encourages everyone to learn to swim. In most drownings, the victim never intended to go in the water and was often close to safety. The society offers training programs from learn-to-swim to advanced lifesaving, lifeguarding and leadership.
Heed boating safety requirements
Along with your Pleasure Craft Operator Card, you are required by law to carry marine safety equipment. These requirements vary by boat size. At a bare minimum, you should always have with you:
- Canadian-approved flotation device or lifejacket of appropriate size for each passenger on board
- Buoyant heaving line at least 15 metres in length
- Watertight flashlight OR Canadian-approved flares – Type A, B, or C
- Sound-signaling device
- Manual propelling device (i.e., paddle) OR an anchor with at least 15 metres of rope, chain, or cable
- Bailer OR manual water pump
- Class 5 BC fire extinguisher
For more information, please refer to the Office of Boating Safety.
In addition to the safety equipment listed above, the Red Cross recommends that you carry the following items – enough for everyone on board:
- First Aid Kit
- Drinking water
- Dry clothing (i.e., long-sleeved shirt)
- Waterproof matches
Alcohol and Drugs Awareness
Every year hundreds of people die as a result of boating-related activities. Almost 65 per cent of these deaths involve the use of alcohol. There is no safe way to mix alcohol and drugs with boating since it impairs judgment and reaction time.
Bottom line? Stay safe while you get cool this summer!