Activities at the Gallagher Centre Water Park this week are focused on drowning prevention in recognition of National Drowning Prevention Week.
“It’s a week that we annually dedicate to focusing public education on preventing drowning and other water-related incidences,” said Jessica Matsalla, the City’s Water Park manager.
Confirmed statistics for the last two years are not yet available, but a press release from the Lifesaving Society said their were at least 17 drownings last year and 11 so far this year.
From 2002 to 2011, Saskatchewan has averaged 18.3 drownings per year.
“Saskatchewan is now in peak season for potential drownings, which is the reason the campaign is always held in July,” the release stated.
“Although drowning incidents do occur at other times of the year, including the winter months, July and August is a particularly high risk time due to more access to water.”
The demographic profile of drowning victims in Saskatchewan is far from surprising with men accounting for three times the number of women and 20- to 24-year olds making up the most at-risk group. It is also not surprising that the number one contributing factor in these deaths is alcohol consumption, 72 per cent for those aged 15 to 34, 38 per cent for the 35 to 64 age group and 23 per cent for those 65 and older.
For the 14 and under age group, the greatest contributing factor is lack of adult supervision and the drowning rate of Saskatchewan youth is 2.4 times the national average.
Other contributing factors in drowning include failing to wear a personal flotation device (PFD) or lifejacket while boating, lack of swimming ability, swimming or boating alone and boating in darkness or rough water.
Obviously, given the statistics, the best tip to prevent drowning is to avoid alcohol when engaging in water-related activities and avoid the water when alone.
Additionally Matsalla offers the following tips:
“Drowning can take as little as 10 seconds and occur in just inches of water… in bathtubs, wading pools, even buckets. Never leave a child alone near the water. Don’t be distracted by a ringing phone, a doorbell or another child.
“Drowning is a silent killer. Drowning victims rarely call or wave or signal for help because they can’t keep their head or arms above water. Even when they manage it, inhaling air, not calling for help, is their priority. Always keep a close eye on your children when swimming.
“Drownings involving toddlers, and very young children can be prevented if parents or caregivers are within arm’s reach around water. Very young children have natural curiosity combined with an almost magnetic attraction to water. This means they have a high risk of drowning anytime they’re near water—natural, or man-made. Keep your young children within arm’s reach at all times around the water.
Shelby Rushton, Lifesaving Society CEO, sums it up succinctly.
“During National Drowning Prevention Week, and all year round, the Lifesaving Society encourages everyone to follow safety guidelines while in, on or around water. Remember to wear a P.F.D. or lifejacket, to swim with a friend, to supervise children, and refrain from drinking alcohol before or during water activities.”