Safe splashing

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July 24, 2014 9:30 AM

During National Drowning Prevention Week, swimmers and boaters alike are being reminded of safe practices when in or on the water. Cassia Pellerin teaches some youth how to swim during week-long courses at Sandy Beach Regional Park. - Mallory Clarkson Photo

With summer being in full swing, many head to the lake to either relax on the boat or splash around in the water.

But the fun and games can quickly turn into scary instances, if proper safety measures aren’t followed.

According to the Lifesaving Society’s Saskatchewan Drowning Report 2014, the average drowning rate has increased 25 per cent over the 2007-11 period.

Water-related fatalities are more likely for men, young adults and older adults.

According to the study, four per cent of fatalities take place in pools, 18 per cent in rivers and 52 per cent happen in lakes.

The report also suggested that fatalities happen more while swimming than any other activity (31 per cent), over fishing (18 per cent), power boating (12 per cent) and canoeing (6 per cent).

With National Drowning Prevention Week running from July 20-26, the public is being asked to stay safe.

While she wasn’t there for the prevention week, lifeguard Cassia Pellerin is teaching swimming lessons at Sandy Beach Regional Park this week.

She offered that the one thing people can do to avoid the close calls or deadly situations is to educate yourself or your children in what their limits are.

“If they’re not able to touch, they probably shouldn’t be out there without a lifejacket on and they shouldn’t be out there alone,” she said.

Kids get tired and may not realize what those limits are, she added, saying some might think they can make it to a dock that’s 10-metres out.

“In reality, it’s going to drop five feet and they don’t have anywhere to touch, they won’t have anywhere to grab onto and that’s when, if they’re tired of kicking, they’ll probably go under,” she said. “It’s a totally preventable thing — just make sure that we’re all aware of our children, where they are and being safe with them.”

According to the report, the two main risk factors to be aware of while swimming is alcohol consumption, and swimming alone or with minors only.

While those appear under the boating risk factors, the top item on that list is not wearing a lifejacket. Alcohol consumption falls in second place.

Terri Russell, manager at Sandy Beach, said those factors are addressed in the two main rules of boating at the park: don’t drink and boat, and make sure there’s enough lifejackets for all people on board.

The park has actually initiated a registration system for all boats so they can better alleviate problems relating to the abuse of alcohol and over-filling boats.

“It’s more so for safety reasons and to stop the abuse,” she explained. “You get 15 kids on a boat, they start drinking, they lose all of their inhibitions and common sense and one tries to outdo the other.”

Gary Dumont is one of the regular boaters at Sandy Beach and said he always has six lifejackets on his vessel.

He also follows three rules of thumb to stay safe on the water: have lifejackets available, make sure his boat is in perfect condition and not bring out too many kids at once, so he can keep an eye on them.

“In lakes, if you’re tired, you can’t float,” he said.

He said his rule on the number of kids in a boat at a time, particularly when he’s pulling a wakeboard or tube is you have to pay attention to kids playing, plus what you’re hauling.

As for alcohol consumption, for Dumont, it’s simple.

“I don’t agree with alcohol no matter what you drive — it could be a scooter, it could be a boat, plane, you shouldn’t drink,” he said. “If you want to drink, park your boat, get a table, sit down and drink. It’s not safe, you’re more ambitious to do stuff when you’re tipsy.”

For more tips on how to stay safe, visit www.lifesavingsociety.com.

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