It is amazing how some moments can become lodged in our memories, never to be forgotten. For me, one of those brief yet impactful moments happened in the dead of winter near the end of my shift. The public pool was busy this Sunday afternoon, a time when many families came out to embrace the last few hours of the weekend. Scanning the pool, among many swimmers, I spot a young boy, likely 7 years old, on a mission to get a hold of a shiny red ball, drifting across the water’s surface. Between awkward strokes he would intentionally bob his body up and down to feel the security of the pools floor. With the red ball finally in reach he lunged forward and found himself at the drop off point. Small splashes. A last gasp. And he went quietly under the water.
As a trained Lifeguard we often prepared for these scenarios, but I recall that it took me a second to recognize and digest the depth of this situation. Whistle on my lips, flutter board in hand I jumped in and retrieved a boy whose eyes were still bulging with fear. That was a day, a shift and a stare that I will never forget.
This week marks National Drowning Prevention week in Ontario, #NDPW. Statistics tell us we are most at risk of drowning during the warm summer months, especially on the weekends.
Although drownings can happen anywhere, when lifeguards are present the incidence is much lower–only 1% of drownings in Ontario occurred under lifeguard supervision (2008-2012, Lifesaving Society). This is a stark contrast to the 10% of drownings occurring at private pools, where children under 5 are most at risk. Natural bodies of water account for the largest proportion of drownings in Ontario, with lakes at 48% and rivers and streams at 21%. –Lifesaving Society, Ontario Drowning Report 2015 Edition.
Here’s what we know: Drowning is the 2nd leading cause of preventable death for children under age 10. The World Health Organization (WHO) released its first report (Drowning Preventing a Leading Killer) and drowning is among the 10 leading causes of childhood deaths worldwide, however there is good evidence of effective drowning prevention initiatives, such as the Lifesaving Society Swim to Survive program. Drowning is scary, a fast and silent killer; victims seldom call or signal for help because they can’t keep their heads up. We need to work together to keep our kid’s safe.
11 drowning prevention tips for parents:
• Stay within arm’s reach of your little swimmers.
• Enroll them into swim lessons, can they Swim to Survive?
• Actively supervise your children, even if they can already swim.
• At a private backyard pool designate which adult is “On Guard”.
• Fence off your pools, water features and drain wading pools when not in use.
• Swim in supervised areas.
• Swim with a buddy.
• Wear your lifejackets especially in the boat (Adults too).
• Insist weak or non-swimmers wear lifejackets.
• Don’t leave your child alone in the bathtub.
• Ice is risky, never go out alone and measure clear hard ice in several spots first.
Keeping your family and friends safe around the water is a big responsibility, too big for just one person, so share the responsibility together. Consider getting trained in essential lifesaving skills like Water Safety, CPR and First-Aid, I know first hand it will be time well spent!
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For parenting information or to speak with a Public Health Nurse (every Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) simply dial 311 or 905-825-6000.