Don't be a drowning statistic
|By Lisa Gervais - Editor | May 30, 2019|
We’re only at the end of May and The Highlander has already reported on two canoe mishaps that have resulted in a total of four people being rescued on area lakes. The first was in the area of Clear and Big Hawk lakes. The second on Beech Lake. Both on the Monday of the May long weekend. Witnesses have said both rescues involved male canoers. There was bad weather. In the Clear Lake incident, the canoe was badly overloaded. In the Beech Lake one, the person had an improper paddle and wasn’t wearing a personal flotation device (PFD). Both were preventable.
It’s just a matter of time until there is no rescue and we have another drowning in Haliburton County. The Ontario Drowning Report is a document prepared for the Lifesaving Society by the Drowning Prevention Research Centre Canada. The most recent one has stats from 2006-2015. It makes for interesting reading.
Who is drowning? More than three quarters of victims are males, less than a quarter females. People 65 and older make up the largest number, at 27 per cent, but that is followed by 20-34-year-olds (23 per cent) and then 50-64-year-olds (21 per cent).
Where are they drowning? Two-thirds are losing their lives in lakes, ponds and rivers. Far fewer are in pools and bathtubs.
What were they doing? The biggest proportion were swimming, followed by walking, running and playing near water. That is followed by power boating, fishing from boat and canoeing (which is six per cent), then diving and jumping. T
he risk factors are predictable. They include alcohol consumption, being alone, and being a weak or non-swimmer. But the biggest risk factor, by far, is not wearing a PFD. The sad part of the story is most, if not all of the drownings, were indeed preventable.
If you are going to be in, or around the water, it seems fairly simple that you should a) not drink, or at least drink sensibly b) have a buddy go with you if you are swimming or in a watercraft and c) wear a PFD.
And, yet, every summer in Haliburton County, we see it. People drink too much and jump in the lake or jump on the jet ski. We see people alone on the water. We see fishermen in tin boats standing up without a PFD. We all think we know how to be water smart. After all, we know how to swim, right? We know our waterways, right?
We might, but we have no control over other things that can happen to us, such as a bee sting that throws us off balance, or causes an allergic reaction. Or a sudden change in the weather. Or the actions of another boater. And, on and on it goes.
We commend the Maple, Beech & Cameron Lake Association for hosting a summer safety speaker series. They are starting to realize that what should be common sense isn’t always common sense to all of us. They invited a water safety specialist, a fire chief and a paramedic to a morning session this past Saturday in Algonquin Highlands.
The speakers covered it all: not just water safety, but everything you need to know to keep safe in summer in cottage country. For those that did not attend the session, the MBC was planning to post some of the information on its website. We encourage everybody to read it.
You might think you know all there is to know about summer safety, but I can guarantee you, you don’t. I learned about dry drowning and some better tips for dealing with someone with hypothermia, for example. We all need a refresher. But, most of all, we all need to practice that common sense stuff: don’t drink and swim or boat; don’t go alone and wear that PFD. Let’s not have any Haliburton County stats included in future Ontario Drowning Reports
Lisa Gervais is the editor for The Highlander.