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Fact and figures
• 18 to 24-year-olds have the highest water-related death rate of any age group in Canada
• Drowning is the third leading cause of unintentional death for Canadians under 60 years of age.
• 80 per cent of Canadian drowning victims are male.
• More than two-thirds of all toddler drownings occur in the afternoon and early evening according to the Canada Safety Council. The largest number occur on Saturdays and Sundays; 33 per cent between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., and 29 per cent between 2 p.m. and 6 p.m.
• 70 per cent of all drowning victims can swim.
• More than 85 per cent of drowning victims in Canada each year did not wear a flotation device.
Safety in the pool
According to the 2013 Canadian Drowning Report by the Lifesaving Society, backyard pools are the number one setting where children under five years of age most often drown.
• Make sure children are supervised by adults at all times in, on and around the water.
• Stand within arm's reach of your child whenever she's in the pool or close to it.
• Ensure your child wears a life jacket or a personal flotation device (PFD).
And if you have a backyard pool, make sure it has:
• a four-sided, four-foot-high fence with a self-latching gate;
• childproof locks; and
• nothing left near the gates that a child could climb onto.
Safety in rivers
Although they may be the perfect place to cool off in the summer, rivers and streams can be dangerous. A shallow, gravel riverbed may hide muddy spots or deep holes that can trap swimmers. Water close to the riverbank may flow gently but there may be a strong current farther out. No matter how strong you are, even a moderate current can pin you against rocks and create underwater obstacles by trapping tree branches and rocks below the surface. Heavy rains can quickly turn a gentle river into a menacing flood.
Beware riptides and undertows
Riptides –- or rips -– are strong ocean currents that look and behave like rivers: they're flat and rippling with faster water in the middle and slower currents along the sides. Rips develop when incoming waves push receding water sideways.
Undertows occur where waves break over riptides forcing water down, creating the undertow. As soon as the wave breaks, however, the rip surfaces and so will anyone caught in the undertow.
Here are some tips to consider.
• Check surf conditions before entering the ocean.
• Make sure you have enough energy to swim to shore.
• Don't swim against the current; swim sideways across the current back to shore.
• Take a deep breath and dive underwater if you think a large wave is going to break on you. The force of the break can push your body underwater and hold you there.
• Above all, remain calm; doing so could save your life.
• Never leave a child under the watch of another child.
• Avoid alcoholic beverages; in one year alone, alcohol was involved in 41 per cent of preventable water-related deaths involving victims 18 years of age and older.
• Don't assume your child is safe in small amounts of water; it takes just a few inches of water and less than two minutes for a child to drown.
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Heavy rains may result in animal and human fecal matter being washed into rivers and lakes, raising the water's bacteria levels. This increases the risk of infection in swimmers' skin, eyes, nose and throat and can cause stomach disorders.
Beaches may become strewn with floating debris, oil, scum or excessive algae growth. Beaches can also be plagued by bad odour and cloudy or murky water. These conditions may force the closure of area beaches. Watch for posted warning signs. If your family feels ill after swimming, contact the local conservation authorities.
Buying a life jacket or a personal flotation device (PFD)
Life jackets are designed to turn an unconscious person who is face down in the water face up so he can breathe. A PFD, on the other hand, is designed to keep the user afloat during recreational use.
• Ensure that it fits snugly but does not immobilize you, and that it doesn't interfere with movement or breathing by riding up.
• Don't rely on inflatable toys for your kids because they can easily shift position. Children over 20 pounds should wear an approved PFD or life jacket that fits comfortably yet snugly when in, on or around water. (Transport Canada recommends waiting until your children reach 20 pounds before allowing them to engage in water activities.)
• PFDs should never replace adult supervision.
Nearly all diving accidents occur in backyard pools and involve young men, 15 to 25 years old, who are visitors to the pool. Here's how to avoid disaster.
• Have at least a 25-foot clear, horizontal dive path in front of you.
• Avoid back dives. They plunge the body into water faster and deeper than regular dives, while the head and neck are curved backward, making this dive a time bomb for neck injuries.
• Don't dive through objects such as inner tubes. Perfect aim could be foiled by movement of the object in water.
• Don't dive into unfamiliar bodies of water. Hidden objects such as large rocks can stop the dive short.
• Don't run and dive -– it creates the same impact as a dive from a board.
• Avoid dives with straight vertical entry. It takes a long time to recover after one of these dives.
• Dive with your arms extended above you to protect your head.
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