Summer has finally arrived in Sooke. Sizzling Sun. Sun-tanning. Soaking. Swimming. Sailing. Surfing.
And with that comes the reminder to be safe in the water.
The Canada Day long weekend saw four drownings over five days, prompting the BC Coroners Service to warn residents and visitors to take extra care when enjoying water-based activities, be it at lakes, rivers, pools or the seashore. Statistics that show a high percentage of drownings in B.C. occur in the summer months of May through August.
The four deaths that occurred in different parts of B.C. encompass four entirely different sets of circumstances — a three-year-old child in a backyard swimming pool, a teenager who slipped and fell while playing at the top of a waterfall, a middle-aged man tubing on a fast-running river and another man who died in a swimming incident in an Interior lake.
The variety of cases shows the many dangers that water can hold and thus the need for extra vigilance whether swimming, boating or even just walking along the edge of a body of water.
A review of drowning deaths over the past five years shows that many victims are unfamiliar with the waters involved and therefore don’t see the risk or underestimate it. Those risks can include such things as unexpected currents, steep and sudden drop offs, or unusually high water levels because of heavy rains or late spring runoff. In a fast-flowing river, six inches of water can sweep a person downstream and two feet can carry away most vehicles.
The Coroners Service also stresses that alcohol and water-based activities don’t go together, any more than drinking and driving do. The review showed that fully 40 per cent of the victims were impaired by alcohol or drugs.
SWIMMING SAFETY TIPS
Always wear a properly fitting Personal Floatation Device (PFD) when engaged in boating or tubing activities. If you are suddenly thrown into cold and/or rough water, it may often be impossible to find a PFD and put it on, even if you had one in the boat with you. Children, non-swimmers and weak swimmers should also wear a PFD when wading or playing in the water at a river or lakeside.
Be aware of the area where you are planning your activities. Check the weather forecast before heading out, and also do a visual inspection of the area. Do not head blindly down a river or stream without being aware of the water conditions further downstream.
If you are hosting visitors from another province or country, ensure that they are informed about the conditions that prevail in the lake or river you are visiting. Warn them about steep drop-offs, rapids and any other hazards.
Alcohol and water-related activities do not mix. Alcohol impairs your co-ordination and judgment, and this substantially adds to the risk inherent in swimming or boating.
Always supervise children anywhere near water. Pre-school aged children can drown in only a few centimetres of water, and the drowning is often silent. Proper supervision for children of this age involves always having them within arm’s length of a responsible adult.
Never dive into unknown waters. Unexpectedly shallow water or hidden obstacles underwater can easily prove fatal.
For further information about water safety tips, visit websites by such organizations as the Canadian Red Cross and the Lifesaving Society.