When summer weather arrives, many Winnipeggers take advantage of the heat by taking a dip in a pool, while others seek out activities on Winnipeg’s many waterways, such as boating, kayaking, or canoeing.
However you beat the heat, it's important to do so safely and responsibly. Each year, the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service (WFPS) responds to approximately 150 water rescue calls. Not surprisingly, the summer months are the busiest for these types of calls. Newcomers to Canada are particularly at risk, as they may be unfamiliar with the hazards water can present and the steps needed to stay safe.
We want everyone spending time outdoors and being active, but we want them to do so safely. By following simple safety strategies we can prevent tragedy.
Wear a life jacket
The top way to do so is to always wear a life jacket when on a boat or participating in other activities on the river. If you don't own a life jacket, they're now available to rent through the Recreation Equipment Rentals Program.
Children should also always be supervised when in, or around, water – even if they know how to swim.
The Lifesaving Society’s Annual Drowning Report shows lack of adult supervision is a major contributing factor to child drowning deaths in Manitoba. In 100 percent of such cases, an adult supervisor was found to be either absent (not present at all) or distracted (present but not watching the child).
Adults and caregivers should always be within arm’s reach of young children when near or in the water. Unattended children under the age of five have a higher risk of drowning because they are quick, curious and are the least capable of self-rescue of any age group.
The Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service (WFPS) recommends having conversations with children of all ages about staying away from retention ponds and river banks – but particularly when they are old enough to be left unsupervised and may be playing with friends in their neighbourhood.
Check the water conditions
Monitoring river and weather conditions is also important when venturing out on the waterways as changes in wind direction and speed, or sudden storms can make it more difficult to control boats, kayaks, and canoes.
Not only can poor weather conditions make it more danger for residents on the water, it also makes rescues much more difficult and dangerous to perform for our responders.
Another common factor in many of the calls WFPS attends to is impairment. Residents should never operate a boat while impaired by alcohol, cannabis, or any other substances. In fact, the WFPS recommends all residents avoid engaging in activities on or near the water while impaired as misadventure on our waterways by residents under the influence is always preventable.
Not only is boating while impaired dangerous, it’s also illegal and can result in arrest and criminal charges.
Follow the regulations
Boaters are reminded regulations also require them to keep standardized safety equipment on board their boat. The list of equipment and requirements is based on the size of a boat and can be found, along with other safety tips from Transport Canada’s Office of Boarding Safety. Failing to have the required safety equipment can potentially jeopardize your safety, and can also result in a fine for missing equipment.
The Winnipeg Police Service's River Patrol will be on the waterways and riverbanks to keep residents safe and respond to river-related calls. It serves both an enforcement and education role. If you have any questions, always feel free to ask the members.
You can learn important swimming and lifesaving skills by taking one of our Leisure Guide swimming lessons or aquatic leadership training courses. You can find current course offerings and registration information through leisureONLINE.
Originally posted on June 10, 2020
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