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Home News Kinsmen Water Park life guards aim for education with National Drowning Prevention Week activities scheduled to start on Monday

Kinsmen Water Park life guards aim for education with National Drowning Prevention Week activities scheduled to start on Monday

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Kinsmen Water Park life guards aim for education with National Drowning Prevention Week activities scheduled to start on Monday
Lifeguards from Kinsmen Water Park give a rescue demonstration in this photo from 2016. Lifeguards have a number of activities lined up for National Drowning Prevention Week, including rescue demonstrations in partnership with Parkland Ambulance on Wednesday, July 21. -- Photo courtesy of Kinsmen Water Park.

Know your limits, wear a life-jacket, avoid swimming while intoxicated, and keep a close eye on small children.

Those are some of the messages lifeguards at Kinsmen Water Park hope to get out when National Drowning Prevention Week activities begin on Monday. Park staff have five days of educational events scheduled to teach residents about safety while enjoying the water this year—whether it’s in a lake, a dugout, or a swimming pool.

“We really try to stress the educational aspect,” Kinsmen Water Park aquatics manager Reid Braaten said. “It’s a week of fun and hanging out and swimming, but we really try to work in all the educational aspects so people can take what they learn here and apply it to their own lives.”

Water park life guards will have help from a number of community organizations in getting their message out. The Prince Albert Fire Department, Parkland Ambulance, and John M. Cuelenaere Public Library will all step in lend their expertise for one day.

Braaten and other water park employees say many people understand the risks of drowning, but don’t always realize how quickly they can get into trouble. Events like ‘Swim to Survive Day,’ which is scheduled for Monday, are designed to educate residents about those dangers in a safe and supervised manner.

Braaten said they’ve always had a good response from participants, who are sometimes shocked at the difficulty.

“We get a lot of people who say, ‘I thought I was going to be able to do that,’ but they’re not able to do it at all,” he said. “There are kids—and adults too—who (say), ‘oh my gosh.’ It’s a bit eye-opening for people, which is a good thing.”

Drowning deaths have slowly declined in Saskatchewan since 2014, but they jumped nationally three years later.

In 2017, the most recent year the Offices of the Chief Coroners and Medical Examiners of Canada has data for, 465 adults and children drowned in Canada, and those numbers don’t include figures from British Columbia. That’s the highest single year total since 2013, when 466 people drowned.

Prior to 2017, Canadian drowning deaths declined to 428 in 2014, then down to 423 in 2015, and to 408 in 2016. In Saskatchewan, the Chief Coroner’s Office recorded 34 drowning deaths in 2014, 23 in 2015, 22 in 2016 and 21 in 2017.

While official figures are not yet available for deaths after the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, lifeguards expect those numbers will be higher in 2020. The reason? Less than one per cent of drownings occur in a lifeguard supervised setting, and with facilities like the Kinsmen closed or open at reduced capacity, many people took the opportunity to swim in lakes, ponds, dugouts and other unsupervised bodies of water.

“Lots of people weren’t knowing their limits,” said Lauren Haubrich, the City of Prince Albert’s aquatic recreation programmer. “What a child’s limit may have been in 2019 prior to the pandemic has decreased. They haven’t been in the water at their swimming lessons, right, so it’s impacted a lot of people.”

Haubrich said their message on drowning prevention week has always resonated with the public, however not everyone puts that knowledge to good use. Their focus is to make sure swimmers and boaters aren’t afraid to ask about anything they don’t understand, and then follow through with direct action once they get the correct information.

“The messages that we’re sharing with the public always hit home with a lot of people,” Haubrich explained. “We’re always surprised at the feedback or the stories that the public volunteer to us. They’ll say, ‘oh, that almost happened to me,’ or, ‘we had a close call one day on the boat.’

“I think that really emphasizes the importance of why we’re sharing messages about drowning prevention here at the water park. It’s kind of a home base for it, (then) people take that education out into their normal lives outside of the park.”

As part of the education campaign, Haubrich and other lifeguards have encouraged residents to always swim with a partner so someone is always looking out for them. They also encourage residents to wear life-jackets when boating, even though legislation only requires boaters to have a life-jacket in the boat for every person on board.

“That’s a Saskatchewan rule, but it’s not going to work if you don’t wear it,” Haubrich said.

Child safety is their other concern. Haubrich said children are inquisitive about water, and it won’t take them long to discover it if it’s nearby. She suggests parents, guardians and adult supervisors always keep young kids within an arm’s reach.

“Kids are sneaky,” she explained. “If there’s water, they’ll find it. Whether that’s a pond close to your house, or you’re at the beach and you’re not quite packed up into the car yet, those are all places where drownings happen.”

Lifeguards also remind residents to drink responsibly when near bodies of water, since alcohol is a major factor in the number of drowning deaths.

National Drowning Prevention week events begin on Monday July 19, to Friday July 23. For a complete list of events, see below.

Monday, July 19th: Swim to Survive Day — Learn how to survive a fall into deep water with the KWP lifeguards!

Tuesday, July 20th: Swimming Literacy Day — Visit the John M. Cuelenaere Public Library for books and resources on swimming and drowning prevention!

Wednesday, July 21st: Mock Rescue Day — Watch the KWP lifeguards demonstrate various rescue situations featuring Parkland Ambulance!

Thursday, July 22nd: Sun Smart Day — Meet Sun Smart Saskatchewan and learn about how to be safe and have fun in the sun!

Friday, July 23rd: Lake Safety Day — Talk about being safe at the lake and on the boat with Prince Albert’s Fire Fighters!