Every year thousands of tourists and residents of Barrie enjoy the beautiful waterfront. Many people partake in watersports including boating, canoeing, paddle boarding, cliff jumping and more. However, with fun comes considerable risk. Following two tragic water-related deaths in the area, the Barrie Police Marine Unit are offering a few water safety tips to ensure everyone enjoys the waterfront safely this summer.
“Drowning is almost entirely preventable, if people wear life jackets,” said Constable Kurt Hemington, with the Barrie Police Marine Unit. He says the best way to prevent tragedy is to wear a life jacket at all times when around or on the water.
While it may seem obvious, Hemington says people often forget to wear life jackets, or aren’t wearing them properly. “Having a life jacket with you is not the same as wearing it. And wearing it means all buckles attached, all clips and all zippers done up.”
READ MORE: Body of missing kayaker found, police say
Hemington says in addition to a life jacket, people venturing out into the water should have a plan. This includes researching the body of water to identify hazards, looking at the weather forecast and letting someone know where you’re going or ideally taking a companion.
Additionally, Hemington says people in canoes or on paddle boards should stay close to the shore, as weather conditions can change quickly without warning and paddling across a body of water can be physically exhausting. “There is no benefit of exploring or paddling into the middle of a body of water over staying close to the shore.” He notes the water is still very cold and can get quite deep, posing a safety risk for people if they overturn the middle of a lake.
When it comes to swimming, Hemington says structures such as bridges and dams pose a large safety risk and should be avoided. For those who enjoy cliff jumping, Hemington urges that they check the water below to identify hazards before they jump in.
“One of the biggest things is familiarizing yourself with the body of water,” he said.
Another big part of the planning process is ensuring the proper safety equipment is readily available. Hemington says each vessel requires different safety equipment. What is needed on a canoe is different than what is needed on a boat or paddle board. “People should be researching and aware of what their specific vessel requires. Ignorance is not an excuse to not have what is required,” he said.
However, first and foremost are life jackets. Hemington says life jackets should be inspected before each use to ensure they are not damaged, and will function properly. If there is any visible damage such as ripped seams, mold, exposed foam, or broken buckles or zippers, they should be disposed of and replaced immediately. “There is no fixing a life jacket, that wouldn’t meet safety criteria,” he said.
More information regarding safety equipment, and safe boating practices can be found here.