Last week, June 6 to 13, marked the national Water Safety Week campaign, led by the Canadian Red Cross to educate Canadians on how to stay safe around water and prevent drowning incidents.
The statistics are staggering and it really hits home when one third of the water related deaths last year in B.C. happened right here in the Okanagan/Similkameen area.
Out of the 67 drownings in B.C. last year, 22 of them were in the Okanagan/Similkameen.
Of those 22 deaths, 10 of them occurred in the Okanagan Lake, five in backyard pools, three in rivers, two in creeks, one in a bathtub and one in a drainage ditch.
Fifty-four per cent of drownings occur in July and August, which makes this awareness campaign so timely.
This week our children will be out of school and spending more time at the beach swimming, and in backyard, indoor and outdoor pools.
Sadly, I envision young children enjoying their day, and within seconds needing help in the water, and if alert, close-at-hand adult supervision is not present, the unthinkable can and does happen.
The Canadian Red Cross states “A high percentage of these preventable water-related fatalities consist of young children, almost always due to lack of adequate supervision.”
The onus comes onto us, the adults, parents, caregivers to ensure we are doing our part to keep our children water safe.
Here are some of the suggestions Red Cross and the Lifesaving Society has to improve our fatalities and drownings:
o Don’t be distracted by food, drink, conversation.
o Never leave your children at the pool or beach unattended.
o Designate an adult to provide constant, active supervision of the water and keep their eyes on the pool/beach. Have a phone, reaching assist and a first aid kit pool side.
The Canadian Red Cross explains, “While you enjoy the summer months at cottages, lakes, and pools with your family, it’s important to keep these statistics and safety tips in mind to ensure the safety of your children:
o The absence of effective adult supervision is a factor in 75 per cent of deaths by drowning for children under the age of 10. Whether it’s in a pool, the bathtub, or the beach, children should always be actively supervised – even if they can swim.
o Children aged one to four accounted for 42 per cent of fatalities involving backyard pools.
o Above-ground backyard pools are especially dangerous for small children, and were associated with 38 per cent of all deaths by drowning in home pools involving children less than 10 years of age.
While the ability to swim is important, swimming skills alone aren’t always enough to save a life. Learning water safety is key to preventing an emergency in, on or around the water, and also teaches what to do if you find yourself in an emergency situation.
The Red Cross Swim program teaches both swimming skills, and water safety knowledge and skills – the most effective combination in preventing water–related injuries and fatalities.” Visit www.redcross.ca.
Summerland Recreation is offering Red Cross Summer Swim Lessons for all ages and levels which includes boating safety, introduction to first aid and water rescue/survival.
Session I: July 6 to 17. Session 2: July 20 to 31. Session 3: Aug. 4 to 14. Session 4: Aug. 17 to 28.
Come into the Aquatic Centre to register or check out the Summerland brochure online at www.summerland.ca.
Joanne Malar is the program coordinator for Summerland Recreation, three-time Olympic swimmer, 2012 Olympic Commentator, kinesiologist and holistic nutritionist.