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National Drowning Prevention Week

Last week was the Lifesaving Society’s National Drowning Prevention week. As a former lifeguard (for over six years) I know the risks associated with swimming and water activities and the importance of learning water safety.

Going to lakes in the summer is extremely popular in Alberta. This year the great outdoors has been even more alluring to many with quite a few swimming pools throughout the province still being closed because of COVID-19.

Drowning prevention is the name of the game in lifeguarding. Despite what many people think, the vast majority of lifeguarding is prevention rather than active rescues.

If you are at a lake and there is no lifeguard to look out for you, here are some things you should be aware of:

You can drown in an inch of water —

That’s right, only one inch. All it takes is for water to cover your airways. This is why it is important to supervise young children around water, regardless of how shallow it is. It can be a matter of seconds for your child to wander too deep or topple over and be unable to push themselves back upright in the water. I have jumped in numerous times for little ones because parents weren’t staying within arms-reach or watching their kids in the water. At a lake there won’t be anyone to jump in for them but you.

Boating —

Boating is great! Tubing, water sports, enjoying a cruise across the water, you name it, but it can pose plenty of risks if you are not prepared. It doesn’t matter how good of a swimmer you are, if you fall off a boat in the middle of a lake with no lifejacket, you will get tired— and you may not make it to shore.

Some other things to think about when boating is your pre boating checklist. If you are going on the lake it is a good idea to ensure you have paddles and a first aid kit on board at all times; bring snacks and water, always make sure to check the weather before going boating. It is also important to let someone know that you will be out on the water and when you plan to be back. This is important because if you are extremely late on when you planned on being back or if surprise weather fronts roll in, someone is aware of where you are and that you may require their assistance. There is nothing fun about being stranded in the middle of a lake with no way to get to shore, and knowing that nobody is going to come looking for you.

Be aware of your abilities —

You know what is more embarrassing than telling your friends you can’t swim that deep? Your friends watching you struggle to swim and star to drown in front of them. Being honest with yourself and others prevents not only embarrassment, but also could save your life. If you are not a strong swimmer in the shallow end, you are not going to be a strong swimmer in the deep end.

So go have fun and enjoy lake time this summer, but remember to be aware and be prepared.