By Mallorie Rast
The summer sun is hot on her back, making the rivers of water streaming from her wet hair dry instantly. Her hands sweat where she grips the handrail of the outdoor waterslide. Suddenly shoved by the child behind her, the six-year-old rapidly slips down the slide, yelling in glee.
She lands in the water, fully expecting to touch bottom and glide away, giggling. To her horror, she discovers that her head barely breaks surface, leaving just her eyebrows poking up. Her vision is blurry as the splashing water hits her straining eyes. She can’t move, think or breathe; the outdoor pool is teeming with children, and she can’t seem to find enough grip on the bottom in order to walk to shallower water.
A hand grasps her arm, yanking her head above water. She gratefully gasps for breath as a stranger gently scolds her for swimming away from her mother and trying the “big kid” slide.
While this child’s story ended happily, approximately 500 people drown in Canadian waters during a given year. By observing Drowning Prevention Weeks on both a provincial and national level, from July 15 – July 25, Lifesaving Society, among others, seeks to raise awareness to this recurring tragedy.
“Observing a Drowning Prevention Week is important for each individual,” says Tanya Phillips, Interim Manager for the Kindersley Aquatic Centre (KAC). “To grasp the severity of the issue, over a million people drown each year around the world. Drowning is preventable, so even just one death by drowning is too many.”
In Canada, drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional death for children under the age of 10, the number one cause of unintentional injury/deaths among children between the ages of one and four years old, and the third leading cause of unintentional death for adults under 60 years of age. A disproportionate number of these cases stem from Indigenous persons, persons living in the northern part of the country, and new Canadians. Statistics show that almost 70% of the drowning victims never intended to go into the water in the first place and were often within 15 metres (50 feet) of safety.
Besides recognizing the need to increase water safety, what can individuals do in response to Drowning Prevention Week?
The KAC advises individuals to take swimming lessons. The centre offers lessons for all ages from infants to seniors, and provides a free swimming skill test in order to place students in the appropriate level.
In addition to swimming knowledge, water safety practises such as wearing a properly fitted Lifejacket or PFD during boating, avoiding alcohol consumption during water recreational activities, and ensuring children are under the direct supervision of an adult in the water at all times can all go a long way in saving lives.
In particular to the KAC, Phillips noted that the centre is very vigilant in ensuring that young children are properly supervised. “Lifeguarding is a responsibility shared by the attending lifeguard and the guardian/parent/responsible caregiver.” Phillips encourages all parents and guardians to remember that they are their own child’s best lifeguard.
As a member of the Lifesaving Society, the KAC enforces a ruling from the society, requiring that all children under the ages of 7 to be accompanied by aguardian/parent/responsible caregiver in the water and be within an arms’ reach of the child at all times. The ratio of children to caregiver is 2:1, to ensure the safety of the children.
“It has been repeatedly shown by statistics that children under the ages of 7 lack the physical height, the judgement skills and the knowledge of aquatic safety in order to play in the water without a high risk of drowning.” Phillips noted that the KAC is open for people to enjoy the benefits of aquatic recreation, and that Drowning Prevention Week is just one other way to remind the public that water is best enjoyed when it is done safely.
For further information or answers to questions, contact the Kindersley Aquatic Centre at (306) 463-2082.
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