Love the water? These tips can help you stay safe

The St. John Ambulance Society is urging BC and Yukon residents to take water safety seriously.
Canadians love spending time in lakes, rivers pools, or the ocean and that can sometimes end badly with hundreds of people drowning each year. Drowning is the third-highest cause of accidental death in Canada, and the second highest cause of preventable death for children 10 and under.
As the country marks Drowning Prevention Week from July 19-25 St. John Ambulance has compiled some tips to keep your summer enjoyable and safe – no matter what your favourite water-related activity may be.
Understand Rip Currents
Rip currents are one of the most dangerous hazards for beach-goers, as they can drag you out to sea. You can recognize these water channels by their deeper colour, the movement of debris or seaweed, and fewer breaking waves than in surrounding areas. If you do get caught in a rip current, stay calm. Swim at a horizontal to the beach, not directly against the current, and once you’re out, swim back to the shore at a diagonal.
Look Out for Each Other
Lifeguards see a lot, but they can’t see everything. Look after your friends and family when they dive in for a swim, and know what to look for when someone needs help. For starters, their head may appear low and partly submerged, eyes may be closed or glassy, legs may be kicking but they’re making no headway, and their hair might be covering their eyes.
Swim Safely
Be aware of your swimming abilities and of where, how, and when it’s safe to swim. If you feel your swimming could be improved, take swimming lessons. Know your physical limits and be aware of fatigue, medical conditions, and hydration levels before getting into the water. Don’t swim while intoxicated, avoid swimming when it’s dark, and stay in sight of the lifeguard.
Read the Signs
This goes for both beach safety signage and environmental signs. Take a look around you. Does the weather look safe for a swim or a boat outing? Lightning and water do not mix, especially when you’re caught in the middle. Higher winds can also mean rougher wave conditions, so check your weather station beforehand. Also keep an eye out for hazard signs on the beach itself, such as warnings for sudden drop-offs, dangerous marine life, and strong currents.
Watch Children at ALL Times
Backyard pools are, in fact, one of the most likely places for children under 5 years old to drown. Even water less than 1 metre deep can pose a threat for kids with limited swimming abilities, so make sure they do not wind up near the pool by accident. According to the Lifesaver Society, while 61% of deaths for children 5 and under were alone near water, 53% of these occurred only during a momentary absence or lapse of a caregiver’s attention. Many assume they would hear shouting or splashing, but, unfortunately, many drownings are completely silent. Be sure to have eyes on young children at all times and remain within arm’s reach.
Equip Your Pool with Safety Gear
For poolside injuries and emergencies, have a first aid kit, flotation devices, and a phone close by at all times. To avoid accidental child drownings, have a gate put up between the house and pool (even better if the gate is self-closing and/or self-locking). If you have a back door that leads out to the pool, it’s also paramount that you keep it child-locked. Installing lockable safety covers and alarms for your pool can also help.
Learn First Aid and CPR
While you can get a basic understanding of CPR by reading about it, it’s strongly recommended that you take a course so that you learn how to administer CPR properly. CPR is a vital procedure in the event of cardiac arrest, which is when there is a lack of oxygen to the heart, as it can greatly increase one’s chances of survival by helping to keep the flow of oxygenated blood to the brain, heart, and other vital organs until medical help arrives.
St. John Ambulance is a charitable non-profit organization dedicated to helping Canadians improve their health, safety and quality of life through the provision of training and community service. As Canada’s standard for excellence in first aid and CPR services since 1883, St. John Ambulance offers innovative programs and products to save lives at work, home, and play. With over 1,200 volunteers contributing over 240,000 hours of unpaid community service a year in BC and Yukon, through programs such as emergency and medical first response, youth programs, and therapy dog services, St. John Ambulance is an integral part of the community. For more information or to contact your local branch, please visit