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Drownings can be prevented with preparation, safety awareness: RCMP

After some recent water-related fatalities, the Alberta RCMP is urging the public to be safe when they hit their favourite lake this summer.

The provincial detachment says summer brings more people out to enjoy the water, and every year they respond to what they call tragic and avoidable drownings. Staff Sergeant Brent Meyer, Marine Instructor for the Alberta RCMP, says this year alone, they’ve responded to 14 drownings.  As such, the RCMP has gotten tips directly from the Red Cross to avoid these water-related deaths.

The Red Cross says swimming on open water is very different than swimming in a pool – distance can be deceiving, and you often must contend with cold water, waves, currents, drop-offs, sandbars, water visibility, undertows, and underwater obstacles, as well as watercraft.

Enthusiasts are advised to have a plan before hitting the water to plan for weather changes or emergencies. Whenever possible, swim or boat with a buddy to help in a rough situation, and children playing on the water should always be supervised by an adult. The RCMP reminds people that a floatation device is not a substitute for this supervision.

Non-swimmers should have a life jacket on whenever they’re on the water, as the RCMP says in a dangerous situation, one being close is not enough. Also, people enjoying the water should not drink and play.

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The Red Cross also says people should watch for signs of drowning, which might not always be noticeable if someone doesn’t know what to look for:

  • Watch for someone’s head being low in the water, tilted back, and mouth is at water level,
  • If their arms are extended to the side, pressing down for support
  • If they have a vertical or approaching vertical body position with no supportive kick
  •  If they continue to struggle underwater, often facing the nearest point of safety, for example, land, a person, shallow water, a buoyant support toy or a boat.
  • Inability to respond to the question: “Are you okay?”
  • Silence

With a little bit of preparation, the RCMP says, an avoidable drowning can be prevented and people can enjoy their favourite water activity safely.

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