REGINA – A national campaign aims to prevent drownings, but it’s not just focusing on swimmers.
“We’ve noticed in the last couple of weeks with the flooding that we’re driving on these roads, but we’re not really sure where the ground is beneath us. We could be in trouble that way,” said Shelby Rushton, CEO of the Saskatchewan branch of the Lifesaving Society.
National Drowning Prevention Week runs from July 20 to 26.
Eleven fatal drownings have occurred in Saskatchewan so far this year, she added.
Rushton wants people to know people who don’t drown after a water mishap could still face health risks.
“Pulmonary edema, pneumonia, brain damage, or, most often, mental trauma. You’re just scared to get back in the water. That can do a lot of damage to us, as well,” she said.
According to the organization, 52 per cent of drownings happen in lakes, 18 per cent in rivers and four per cent in pools.
The danger isn’t exclusive to the warmer months.
“We’ve had incidents where people have gone in on [Wascana Lake] an icy morning to save their dog because they’ve been chasing one of our Canada geese, and they’ve gone in the water as well,” said Rushton.
It might seem like a basic life skill, but that doesn’t make it a universal one.
Neelu Sachdev, executive director of the Regina Immigrant Women Centre, says in her experience, a lot of newcomers don’t know the precautions they need to take when swimming.
“Maybe there’s fear attached to it from back home, right? So we want them to understand that, with education and awareness, there doesn’t need to be a fear around this,” she said.
Jennifer Roset, aquatics director at YMCA Regina, has been a lifeguard for over 15 years. She said some public school swim program participants from newcomer families have never even been in a pool before.
“Some are terrified, like they’re really scared of the whole idea because they don’t know how to react to it,” said Roset.
“You need to be able to know that there’s risk involved in being in the water and what to do if you fall in, how to be safe, how to get help.”