Family Health Magazine - PREVENTION
Be Water Smart
Prevent and avoid drowning
Top 10 WaterSmart™ Tips
- Always swim with a buddy and be each other’s lifeguard. Friends and family can challenge poor choices or help rescue each other. Forty per cent of drowning victims are alone.
- Stay within arm's reach, if you are not, you have gone too far. Always closely supervise young children. Be your child’s lifeguard.
- Don’t mix alcohol and aquatic activities. Alcohol impairs our judgment and ability to save ourselves. Wait until you are finished your aquatic activities for the day and will not be going back in the water or out in your boat.
- Swim at a marked swimming beach. Go to a marked swimming area and stay within the boundaries. Non-swimmers should wear a lifejacket or PFD in the water. Floating toys require close supervision. Beware of special hazards such as currents and offshore winds that can quickly carry toys and swimmers outside the swimming area.
- Choose a facility with a lifeguard. Less than one per cent of drownings occur at facilities with lifeguards. Lifeguards are injury prevention experts. They provide a safe, fun way to enjoy water in a warm, clean and exciting environment.
- Protect your neck - diving into shallow water can shatter lives. Feet first, first time! Never dive into shallow water. Over 30 youths are paralyzed each year in Canada as a result of striking the bottom or a submerged object. Another 15 to 20 die from broken necks.
- Avoid moving water. Do not enter moving water to swim. Stay away from the river's edge, especially if the bank has a steep slope. One missed step can mean a quick slide into the water. If you get caught in the current, do not fight it. Aim slightly downstream and swim across the current to shore. Wait until you can crawl onto shore to stand up.
- Choose It. Use It. Wear your PFD and insist that everyone in your boat use one. Wearing a PFD while boating protects against hypothermia and helps boaters to rescue themselves if they unexpectedly find themselves in the water.
- Drive your boat responsibly and follow the ‘rules of the road.’ Three-quarters of boating deaths involve powerboats. Keep low to avoid capsizing or falling overboard. Be courteous to others using the waterways and obey all boating rules. Taking a Pleasure Craft Operator course is a great idea. The Lifesaving Society BOAT (Boat Operator Accredited Training™) course teaches safe boating practices including the rules of the road, safety equipment requirements and safe operating skills.
- Know before you go! Check the weather and create a simple safety checklist. Avoid storm conditions and get off the water if you spot a storm coming – one-third of dead boaters did not. Create a simple safety checklist that reviews the weather, your route and water conditions, safety equipment, tools and fuel, and the boat's condition. Tell someone where you are going and when to expect you back.
Every summer, we flock to the water to cool off, swim, play, fish and go boating. Each year more than 500 Canadians of all ages die in unintentional, water-related incidents. Knowing the facts about water safety, learning three simple skills, and making smart choices in, on and around the water are all essential. Armed with this knowledge, you and your family can enjoy the water – safely.
The Lifesaving Society has studied every Canadian drowning that has taken place during the past 14 years. Statistics show not just who has drowned, but also what they were doing and what factors contributed to these deaths and injuries. The vast majority of drownings are not accidents. These incidents are predictable and preventable. We can all act to prevent drowning in our families and communities.
If you are not within arm's reach, you have gone too far
Three-quarters of drownings of preschool children occurred because they were not supervised or were left alone for ‘just a moment.’ Failure to supervise was a factor in half of the drownings involving school-age children. The solution is simple. Never leave young children unsupervised around water, not even for a moment. Stay within arm's reach and be part of the fun. Follow this rule at the pool, the beach or around other water hazards, such as ponds near your home.
Make your backyard pool or hot tub a safety zone
Backyard pools and hot tubs are fun and great places to play at home. They also greatly increase the risk to your children. Each year about 30 people die in private pools. Most are the children and relatives of private pool owners. Supervision is key to keeping your family safe. Always designate a backyard pool lifeguard.
The design of your pool and yard play a part too. In recent years, a new problem has emerged with the introduction of inexpensive, inflatable above-ground pools that can be set up in the back yard. These pools, which may be more than one metre deep and are operated with pumps and filters, are left filled for the swimming season. They are often installed without necessary safety equipment, such as fencing and locked gates to keep out curious children. Find the information you need to keep your pool safe in the publication Lifesaving Society Private Pool Safety Standards (available through www.lifesaving.org).
PFDs are not just for boating
Personal flotation devices (PFDs) and lifejackets are must-wear lifesavers for boaters. Most boating deaths could be prevented if everyone in the boat wore a PFD. Research has found that 84 per cent of dead boaters did not wear a PFD, and more than a quarter did not have one with them in the boat.
A PFD is also an excellent personal safety device for the pool or the beach. Non-swimmers and weak swimmers should wear a comfortable, well-fitted PFD while swimming and playing in the water. A PFD adds another layer of safety to complement adult supervision. A PFD is also a great support while someone is learning to swim.
Can you swim to survive?
In our water-rich environment, basic swimming ability is a necessary life skill. Learning to swim is the most immediate and effective way to prevent drowning. Almost three-quarters of drowning victims did not intend to enter the water.
The Lifesaving Society is internationally recognized for its excellence in drowning prevention and aquatic safety, and is Canada’s lifeguarding expert. It is a national, volunteer-based charitable organization which works to prevent drowning and water-related injury through training, research, Water Smart™ public education and aquatic safety management services.
The Lifesaving Society believes everyone, especially children, must be able to swim to survive. To accomplish this goal, the Swim to Survive program was created and launched nationwide. The use of lifejackets as a teaching aid is one key element. The program quickly teaches the skills required to meet the Canadian Swim to Survive Standard.
The Lifesaving Society's website, www.lifesaving.org, is a great resource where you can learn about Water Smart™ choices, Swim to Survive, and how to safely enjoy aquatic activities. Your local swimming facility may also be able to help.
The Lifesaving Society created the Canadian Swim to Survive Standard to define minimum swimming skills for safe activities in, on and around the water. A sequence of three basic skills provides the essential swimming ability to survive an unexpected fall into deep water. These basic skills are: roll into deep water, tread water for one minute, and swim 50 metres.
There is no single right way to perform these skills – any method that achieves them is acceptable.
- Roll into deep water – A fall into deep water is usually not a controlled foot first entry and often includes a tumbling motion. You must immediately be able to get your head out of the water after an unexpected entry.
- Tread water for one minute – Cold water triggers a gasping reflex. The ability to tread water allows you to support yourself at the surface and protect your airway.
- Swim 50 metres – Most drownings occur within two to 15 metres from a point of safety. You must be able to swim to safety. You also need to be able to swim well enough to cope with the extra challenge of swimming in cold water or while wearing clothes.
Can you swim to survive? Make certain you and every member of your family have these basic skills. For your safety, it is recommended that you first test your skills at a supervised facility where a lifeguard will be available if you need it.
Most drownings result from poor choices we make during activities around the water. Learn to make smart choices. Control the risk of aquatic activities and enjoy the water safely. Combining safe choices with basic swimming ability would reduce drownings and water-related injuries by more than half.
Become water-smart! Learn how to swim to survive, know the facts about water safety and make smart choices to help keep your family happy and safe both in and out of the water.
While effort is made to reflect accepted medical knowledge and practice, articles in Family Health Online should not be relied upon for the treatment or management of any specified medical problem or concern and Family Health accepts no liability for reliance on the articles. For proper diagnosis and care, you should always consult your family physician promptly. © Copyright 2015, Family Health Magazine, a special publication of the Edmonton Journal, a division of Postmedia Network Inc., 10006 - 101 Street, Edmonton, AB T5J 2S6 [PR_FHb06]