National Drowning Prevention Week ends tomorrow. The campaign aims to raise awareness about the problem of drowning, and the lives that can be saved with water safety education. Locally, there have been three drowning deaths on local waters this month.

A new report from the Lifesaving Society of Canada and the Drowning Prevention Research Centre of Canada says that in 2017, there were an estimated 283 drowning deaths across Canada, and 93 deaths in Ontario. 

Between 2011 – 2015, as 2016 and 2017’s data is not yet available, the highest water-related fatality rates were found among seniors aged 65 and older, and young adults aged 20 – 34. The lowest drowning rates were found among young people between the ages of 5 – 14. 

Males continue to have much higher drowning rates compared to females, representing approximately 79 per cent of drowning fatalities. Drowning rates are also higher among Indigenous people, representing 10 per cent of all fatalities. 

The majority of drowning deaths occur between May to September. July is the most dangerous month, with an average of 90 deaths each year. 

According to the Canadian Safe Boating Council and the Lifesaving Society, 80 per cent of recreational boaters who drown each and every year in Canada were not wearing a lifejacket or Personal Floatation Device.

Most of these drownings occur in small, open power boats, accounting for 60 per cent of these preventable deaths. A majority of these victims were males between the ages of 19 and 35, out for a day of fishing. 

The City of Kenora says that throughout the past week, aquatics staff have been reaching out to the community to spread these important messages:

- Watch me, not your cell phone. Always directly supervise children around the water – if you’re not within arms’ reach, you’ve gone too far.

- Be Boat Smart and Boat Sober. Alcohol consumption is a factor in almost 40 per cent of boating-related fatalities.

- In most drownings, the victim never intended to go in the water and was often close to safety – could you survive a sudden and unexpected fall into the water? Make smart choices before going into or out on the water.

- Choose It. Use It. Always wear a Lifejacket or PFD when in a boat.

Local police have also been doing their part to spread the safety message. The OPP’s Project Sunset, which partners with a lengthy-list of community agencies and service providers, have been offering after-school swimming programming to local youth, to help teach proper swimming safety.

"It is important to get ahead of that curve and be proactive to prevent tragedies before they happen", says Sgt. Anne McCoy, OPP Special Projects Coordinator. 

“Drowning is preventable! Statistics report that one in five drowning victims were weak or non-swimmers. Project Sunset takes a strengths-based approach to mitigating such risks with youth in this program. Not only is priority being placed on making programming accessible through community collaboration but youth share they are attending programming because they feel safe and supported. We are beginning to uncovering evidence to suggest these positive outcomes are leveraged because facilitators place emphasis positive, safe and healthy behaviour rather than focusing on negative or deficit based behaviour."

The OPP add that  jumping from heights is high risk and high impact, as drowning can result from resulting head or spinal injuries.

For more information:
Drownings spark lifejacket safety reminder
Canadian Drowning Report - 2018

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