July 25, 2014 5:51 pm

Drowning prevention in Lethbridge

There’s nothing quite like a dip in the water on a hot day. But making a splash can also have consequences.

Tisha Elford recalls a scary moment involving one of her five kids, “My son decided to jump in the water backwards and there wasn’t a table where he jumped in. He went down pretty quick and the teacher still hadn’t noticed so I was running over and another student jumped on top of him and pushed him under and I had to pull him out.”

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Any parent will agree- nothing matches the fear of seeing a child struggle in the water. That’s why officials stress the importance of swimming lessons. With most drownings occurring in the summer months, instructors at the Nicholas Sheran Leisure Centre are making sure kids are learning what they need to stay safe when they swim in open water. “When they’re comfortable around the deep water here, they’ll be comfortable in other deep waters,” says Water Safety Instructor Sean Wutzke. “Just because those skills will transfer no matter where they are.”

Rounding out National Drowning Prevention Week, Alberta Health Services has been busy educating swimmers on the risks surrounding water. Their message: “Before you think only other swimmers drown, have a word with yourself.”

“Like many other injuries, drowning is preventable and there are things that you can do to be safe while you’re swimming,” says Health Promotions Facilitator, Megan Heroux. Throughout the summer, health promotions teams will be working to spread the message of water safety. “We do know that most drownings in Alberta occur between the months of May and August, so like I said watch for us at the lakes and we’ll be spreading these safety messages and talking to parents.”

While most of this drowning prevention education is tailored towards children, adults should pay attention as well. A 2011-2013 study showed that the majority of drowning victims were adults between the ages of 18-34, 88% of which were males. The Lethbridge Fire Department’s Water Rescue Team responds to all water-related calls, and says there are trends in what causes drowning. “The biggest would be not wearing a personal flotation device or lifejacket. The biggest key is to make sure you have one of those on and refrain from using alcohol whenever operating a boat or being in lakes, rivers, and that kind of stuff.”

While the water rescue team is poised to respond to a drowning emergency, officials rely on parents to make sure their kids are taught early on, to stay safe. “It’s a life skill, it’s not just a sport,” says Tisha Elford. “For us, we have five kids so obviously we’re not going to put them into everything. But we definitely save to put them in swimming.”

So far this summer, there hasn’t been a drowning incident in Lethbridge, though that may have been because of higher than usual water levels.

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