P.A. takes part in nation-wide campaign for drowning prevention

Participants complete the Swim to Survive Challenge by swimming 50 metres at Kinsmen Water Park on July 22, 2019. (Jayda Noyes/Daily Herald)

“It’s fun to watch people’s reactions who come in with their chest all puffed up high and then at the end they’re all huffing and puffing.”

– Reid Braaten, Kinsmen Water Park aquatics manager and lifeguard

The Lifesaving Society and Kinsmen Water Park are hoping to spread the message that before you lather yourself in sunscreen and hop in the water, make sure you’re prepared for the unexpected.

This week is National Drowning Prevention Week. According to a 2016 Lifesaving Society report, water-related deaths in Canada have declined steadily since the mid-1990s. But still, between 2009 and 2013, an average of 1.4 people per 100,000 population have died from the water—and it is preventable.

The Lifesaving Society asks facilities across Canada to spread awareness about water safety in the third week of July, when the most drownings occur throughout the year.

On Monday, people of all ages were invited to the Kinsmen Water Park for the Swim to Survive Challenge. It consists of three tasks—rolling into deep water, treading water for one minute, and swimming 50 metres—and is the Lifesaving Society’s standard in case you fall into water unexpectedly.

“It’s still what we would call an ideal scenario because there’s lifeguards all around, they’re in a bathing suit, but it’s a good way to kind of gauge how you are in a perfect scenario,” said Reid Braaten, Aquatics Manager and lifeguard.

Aquatics Recreation Programmer Lauren Haubrich said the same thing: “People don’t just only swim at the water park—they go to the lake and they swim off their boat. All the kids that we educate about wearing life jackets or swimming with a buddy, that all goes with them when they’re not somewhere where there’s a lifeguard.”

“If you plucked random people off the street and asked them to do it then they probably couldn’t,” she said about the challenge.

Braaten, who was guiding participants through it, said many underestimate its difficulty.

“It’s fun to watch people’s reactions who come in with their chest all puffed up high and then at the end they’re all huffing and puffing.”

However, he said “an encouraging amount” were able to complete it.

Throughout the week, there will be lifeguard demonstrations, face painting and colouring.

One day is focused on open water safety. Members of the Prince Albert Fire Department (PAFD) will be there to teach kids about lifejackets.

SunSmart Saskatchewan is also coming, teaching kids about how to be safe in the sun.

Haubrich said it’s important to put yourself or your child in swimming lessons because not only will you learn how to swim, you’ll learn about how to be safe in the water.

“(It’s) the most important thing that you can do,” she said. “That’s really, really valuable.”