As warmer temperatures draw more Nova Scotians to beaches and pools this weekend, the Lifesaving Society is encouraging residents to brush up on their swimming survival skills.
The campaign is part of National Drowning Prevention Week, which aims to raise awareness on the risk factors that contribute to drowning and strengthen the public’s ability to prevent accidents in the water.
The Lifesaving Society’s Nova Scotia branch marked the occasion with free ‘Swim to Survive’ lessons on Thursday at all local beaches guarded by the province’s lifeguarding service.
“A lot of people drown within 50 metres of safety, they fall off a dock or out of a canoe,” explained Paul D’Eon, special projects director for the Lifesaving Society in Nova Scotia.
“And if we can teach them basic skills of…treading water and swimming 50 metres to shore, that’s going to save lives.”
About two dozen children participated in the free programming at Rainbow Haven Beach, with training both in and out of the water. They learned how to paddle on surfboards, swim tethered to a flotation device, and other skills that could save lives in a pinch.
Sisters Bailey and Kiley Langille, nine and seven respectively, are regulars at Rainbow Haven Beach, and said the lesson was both fun and educational.
“It’s important to swim with an adult because you can drown, and also, if you are like stuck in a wave or something, then you can wave your hands and call for help for the lifeguards to come and save you,” said Bailey.
About 500 Canadians die each year in preventable, water-related incidents, according to the Lifesaving Society, a national, volunteer-led water safety organization. Alcohol consumption, not wearing a life jacket, a lack of supervision for children, and the inability to swim are all risk factors.
But so is over-confidence in one’s ability to swim, said D’Eon.
“You think you can swim out to that dock, out to that island, and you get half way there – that’s not a good time to find out you can’t make it that far,” he told Global News.
“The other issue around Nova Scotia and the Maritimes particularly, are currents. You get yourself caught in rip currents or river currents or tidal currents, it’s a serious issue.”
The Lifesaving Society’s Nova Scotia branch will also host a free CPR clinic from 8 a.m. to 12:00 p.m., at the Halifax Seaport Farmers Market on Saturday.