Did you know that adults make up the biggest group of drowning victims in Canada? Young men are at especially risk because of alcohol consumption during boating, failure to wear PFDs, or going out alone or in poor conditions. Even adults need to follow basic best practices to stay safe.
Drowning Prevention Tips
Swim with a buddy - don't swim alone.
Over one third of victims were swimming alone when they drowned.
Don't drink and drive your boat - you could lose your driver's licence.
Half of fatal incidents for men 20-34 involve alcoholic beverage consumption. You would never drink and drive your car, so don't drink and boat. In Ontario, if you are convicted of driving a boat while under the influence, you will lose your license to operate your boat and your car.
Wear a lifejacket when boating, fishing or canoeing/kayaking. It buys you time.
Most drowning victims never intend to get in the water. Just having a lifejacket in the boat doesn't help - trying to put a lifejacket on just before you capsize is like trying to buckle your seatbelt just before a car crash.
Canadian waters are cold most of the time. Heavy gasping, uncontrollable hyperventilation and cold shock can occur in just the first minute of entering cold water. If the cold shock doesn't kill you, time will.
Check the condition of your boat, the weather and the water conditions before heading out.
Make sure your boat is ready for a trip. Coast Guard reports most calls for help are predictable and preventable non-distress calls; boats broken down, run aground or out of gas. For longer trips, file a float plan to help Search and Rescue find you in the event of a real emergency.
Don't go out in stormy, rough weather, in the dark, or when there's a thunderstorm approaching.
Check the ice before you go on it.
Clear, hard, new ice is the only kind of ice recommended for travel. Avoid slushy ice, ice on moving water (rivers, currents), or ice that has thawed and refrozen. Keep away from unfamiliar paths, unknown ice and avoid travelling on ice at night. Remember, ice quality and thickness varies across a body of water and both can change very quickly.
Wear a thermal protection buoyant suit to increase your chance of survival if you go through.
Dog walkers need to be careful. Year after year, owners drown trying to rescue their dogs.
Learn to Swim
Basic swimming ability is a fundamental requirement in any meaningful attempt to eliminate drowning in Canada. The Lifesaving Society offers training programs from learn-to-swim through advanced lifesaving, lifeguarding and leadership.
Our Swim for Life program stresses lots of in-water practice to develop solid swimming strokes and skills. We incorporate valuable Water Smart® education that will last a lifetime.
Swim to Survive is a Lifesaving Society survival training program. Swim to Survive is not a subsititute for swimming lessons; instead, it defines the minimum skills needed to survive an unexpected fall into deep water. People of all ages should be able to perform the Society's Swim to Survive standard.