May 18, 2017 8:42 am
Updated: May 18, 2017 7:03 pm

Water safety season kicks off in Calgary

WATCH ABOVE: Take a ride with CFD members, as Peter Steenaerts explains what they are looking for to keep you safe on the water.

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As the May long weekend approaches, city officials are warning Calgarians to be cautious when heading out on area waterways.

The Calgary Fire Department (CFD) says in 2016 they performed 62 rescues on Calgary rivers. Swift water rescues, in particular, increased 25 per cent from 2015.

READ MORE: Calgary Fire Department rescues woman from capsized raft

On Thursday, members of the CFD and the Calgary Police Service gathered at the Bow River to perform water safety demonstrations as they kick off water recreation season.

“Where there’s water, there’s risk,” acting fire chief Ken Uzeloc said in a news release. “The importance of life jackets, even in shallow, slow-moving water, cannot be exaggerated.”

The event featured demonstrations on how to ensure life jackets fit properly and the types of equipment rafters should include in their safety kits.

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Police and peace officers will be monitoring Calgary’s rivers throughout the summer to issue fines and tickets to those found violating municipal bylaws.

“Many people don’t realize what is at stake when they venture out onto the water without mandatory life jackets,” community standards inspector Susan Wall said in a news release.

“A ticket for failing to wear a life jacket entails a mandatory court appearance and up to $500 in fines.”

Uzeloc stressed the importance of being prepared for anything on the water, advising rafters to aware of the river’s course and new features like the Harvey Passage and the standing wave near the 10 Street Bridge.

To familiarize yourself with water safety practices and bylaws visit www.calgary.ca/watersafety. River flow levels can be found at rivers.alberta.ca.

5 safety tips for water recreation

According to 2016 edition of Lifesaving Society’s Alberta Drowning Report, 183 people drowned in Alberta’s lakes and rivers between 2009 and 2013. Of those, 59 per cent happened between May and September, and 54 per cent occurred on a weekend.

It’s with this information in mind that Kathy Belton from the University of Alberta’s School of Public Health, offered these safety tips as Albertans head to lakes and beaches for this coming holiday weekend.

1. Actively supervise children

“As parents, we often overestimate the abilities of our children,” Belton said in a news release. “But, when it comes to water, err on the side of caution and provide more attention and focus than you might initially think is necessary.”

2. Get training

“Knowing CPR and first aid can be the difference between life and death in a situation where someone needs emergency care or resuscitation,” Belton added.

3. Wear a life jacket

“A life jacket is only useful if it’s being worn,” Belton said. “It can’t save your life if it’s sitting on the bottom of the boat.”

4. Don’t drink and drive — whether it’s a car or a boat

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