July 20, 2014 2:59 pm
Updated: July 21, 2014 4:45 pm

Drowning a ‘silent killer': Campaign hopes to reduce numbers in Nova Scotia

HALIFAX – Most drownings in Canada will happen this week, according to the Nova Scotia Lifesaving Society.

The society rolled out a campaign for National Drowning Prevention Week, which began Sunday.

Gordon Richardson, executive director of the Lifesaving Society, said the high number of drownings can be attributed to the warm weather, warm water and people being out on canoes, kayaks or boats.

“Most people who drown have no intention of going into the water,” he said.

“In fact, two thirds of the people who drown fall out a small aluminum boat, fall off wharfs. There may be children that fall into a backyard swimming pool so wearing a life jacket if you’re on the water just makes complete sense.”

The society hung life jackets on the branches of a tree on the Halifax waterfront in hopes the visual will be a reminder for people to wear their life jackets while out on the water.


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Richardson said seven people have died in Nova Scotia this year so far as a result of drowning. He estimates between 13 to 20 people drown every year in the province.

“Wear your life jacket or your PFD (personal flotation device). Keep your children within arm’s reach and refrain from alcoholic beverages while you’re on the water,” he said.

The life jacket decorated tree drew many stares and was the focus of some pictures as tourists and residents walked up and down the boardwalk.

“It drew my attention because of something colourful in the tree,” said Margota Pukitis. “I went up closer and realized they were vests.”

Wearing a life jacket is a rule at East Coast Outfitters, which helps 2,000 to 2,500 people a year kayak or stand up paddle.

Operations Manager Adam Zita said people need to recognize a life jacket only works when you actually wear it.

“It’s like riding a bike and carrying a bike helmet in your backpack rather than putting it on your head. Why would you do that with a life jacket?” he said.

“In case you go in the water, it’s there. It’s good to have it on because that’s the way it’s going to save you.”

On Sunday, Zita outfitted a family of nine for a kayaking excursion in Prospect, N.S.

Claire Gilmour and her dad Stewart Arneil shared a kayak. Both had ensured their life jackets were nice and snug.

Stewart Arneil and his daughter Claire learn about their kayak before hitting the water.

Julia Wong/Global News

“You never know when there’s going to be an accident or something goes wrong,” Gilmour said.

“You just want to be prepared and safe.”

Arneil said he wanted to set an example for his daughter.

“I got my daughter sitting in the boat behind me. i want to make sure she’s safe and I’m safe for her,” he said.

The Canadian Red Cross said, on average, more than 500 people drown in Canada every year, with most drowning taking place in rivers or lakes.

Communications Coordinator Dan Bedell said people swimming in unsupervised areas, such as rivers and lakes, should use the buddy system and have life jackets.

“We recommend a life jacket be worn for anyone who is a weak swimmer or who is a non-swimmer. That can be of any age but particularly children because they are so susceptible to drowning,” he said.

He also paints a realistic picture of drowning looks like, adding parents always need to be aware of where their children are.

“It’s not like in the movies when they struggle and scream and cry. It’s a silent killer. It will happen quickly and silently and they will be under the water before you know it.”

 

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