In the summer months, especially as the heat rises across the country, there’s not much more tantalizing than the call of a cool, crisp body of water. Whether it’s swimming, boating, fishing or any number of other recreational activities, the common denominator is a desire to be in the water and cool down.
To mark this year’s National Summer Safety Week, May 1 – 7, the Canada Safety Council and the Lifesaving Society Canada would like to bring awareness to the other side of water safety – those who end up in the water despite having no intention to do so.
“Being near or in the water is great way to enjoy the summer months and when we think about those enjoyable moments we naturally associate getting in the water with a conscious decision to do so,” said Gareth Jones, President and CEO of the Canada Safety Council. “But too frequently, we see people drown without intending on even dipping their toe in the water, and these types of tragedies are entirely avoidable.”
According to statistics from the Drowning Prevention Research Centre, slightly fewer than 500 Canadians drown every year on average — a disproportionate amount of which are northern, Indigenous, new Canadians or a combination thereof. Of these, more than 900 Canadians drowned between 2008 and 2017 due to unintentional water entry.
“Drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional death in the county and sadly many of those who did drown never intended to go into the water and were often found within 15 metres of safety,” said Wendy Schultenkamper, Director of Operations at Lifesaving Society Canada. “Learning to swim, swimming in lifeguard supervised settings and effective supervision of children around the water can have the biggest impact on drowning statistics.”
Whether you intend to be in the water or not, one precautionary step that can be lifesaving — in a very literal sense — is to take swimming lessons. A proper education in the basics can result in a more instinctual response when hitting the water. The Lifesaving Society also administers the Swim to Survive program, which teaches skills required specifically to survive a fall into deep water and is available across Canada.
Here are a few more tips on keeping your water and water-adjacent activities safe and enjoyable this summer!
- If you are planning on being around water, bring someone with you. A whopping 74 per cent of unintentional water entry deaths occurred when the victim was alone.
- For the same reason, ensure that children are adequately supervised around water, and especially when around barrier-free bodies of water.
- When out on a boat, wear your lifejacket or personal flotation device (PFD)! It is not enough to have it accessible — you might not have the time to locate it and put it on before an incident occurs.
The Canada Safety Council and Lifesaving Society Canada wish you a happy and safe summer on the water!