Lifesaving tips to prevent drowning deaths
TORONTO – Do you know how to keep yourself and your family safe around water?
As we reach the midpoint of summer, the Lifesaving Society is reminding Canadians to be on their guard to prevent drowning deaths.
According to the society, the next 30 days is the worst time of the year for drownings – 35 per cent of all drownings happen in July and August, when participation in summer activities involving water is at its highest.
Caution issued following deadly weekend in Alberta
This past weekend, rescue workers across Alberta scrambled to save multiple people in separate water-related incidents.
On Sunday, a man was swept away in the North Saskatchewan River, southwest of Edmonton. Police said the man and was wadding across the river when he was caught by the strong undercurrent and pulled away.
Also on Sunday, three Calgary men attempted to swim across a dam in order to cliff-jump into the Bow River. All three went under the water – while one was able to swim to shore, the second swam to shore but died in hospital. The third man remains missing.
On Saturday, a 65-year-old male drown after attempting to swim across Alberta’s Lower Kananaskis Lake.
When and where drowning deaths occur
The majority of the drownings that have occurred in Ontario this year involved people who did not actually intend to be in water, but from people accidentally falling into bodies of water or being involved in boating accidents.
Two-thirds of all drownings in Canada happen in lakes and rivers (35 per cent and 28 per cent, respectively), compared to just six per cent in backyard swimming pools. Private backyard pools, however, continue to be the Number One setting where children under the age of five drown.
Nationally, 80 per cent of drowning victims are men, with those ages 18 to 24 – dubbed the “risk-taking” population – accounting for the highest water-related death rate of any other age group in the country.
So far, 2014 has seen a “staggering increase” in boating fatalities, with the Lifesaving Society reporting those drownings are up 90 per cent.
The Lifesaving Society is reminding Canadians of ways to stay safe around water ahead of National Drowning Prevention Week, which runs from July 19 to 27.
Wear a lifejacket
The Number One piece of advice for preventing drowning deaths is to wear a lifejacket when boating.
Of the 19 victims who drowned while boating this year, 11 were not wearing a lifejacket and in eight cases it’s not known whether a lifejacket was worn.
“Unexpectedly falling in to the water is completely different than diving in or choosing to enter the water,” said Barbara Byers, public education director with the Lifesaving Society.
The society said that when people fall into water, the shock of the cold can cause a person to gasp and inhale water. “Unless they are a strong swimmer and able to survive that experience, drowning can occur very quickly,” said the Lifesaving Society.
“Non-swimmers should wear a lifejacket anytime they are in or near the water.”
Lifejackets should fit properly and all zippers and buckles should be in good working condition.
Learn how to ‘swim to survive’
The Swim to Survive program teaches people three basic skills, which the Lifesaving Society said all Canadians should be able to do. These are: being able to roll into deep water, tread water for at least 60 seconds and swim a minimum distance of 50 metres.
The society said the Swim to Survive program is in addition to basic swimming lessons and also recommends Canadians take a lifesaving course.
Parents should stay within arms’ reach of their kids around water
Because it only takes a second for a water accident to occur, parents should always keep the children they are supervising within their sight and within arms’ reach.
Toddlers should always wear a lifejacket around water and should never be left unattended near water.
Know your limits
The latest data shows a spike in drowning deaths among Canada’s baby boomers (50- to 64-year-olds). The number of drowning deaths of those 65 years and older increased by 12 per cent in the past five years.
The Lifesaving Society urges ageing Canadians to be realistic about their physical limitations and to keep on top of their heart health with regular check-ups with a doctor.
Use the buddy system
Participating in water-related activities while alone continues to be a serious risk factor in drowning deaths.
So far in 2014, of the 12 drownings in Ontario where victims fell into water, all were by themselves when the accidents occurred.
Data from the 2014 Ontario Drowning Report shows that over half (58 per cent) of drowning victims under the age of five were alone near water.Follow @heatherloney
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