Saving your life is as simple as wearing a lifejacket or PFD, supervising your children when swimming and not consuming alcohol when boating. In order to remind everyone to practice water safety this summer, Preventable, the Canadian Red Cross and BC Hydro are laying out towels emblazoned with the words “You’re probably not expecting to drown today” along the shoreline of Terrace’s Lakelse Lake this July.
According to Vital Statistics, there are at least 60 deaths each year in BC due to drowning and water-transport related incidents and submersions. 90% of drowning deaths while boating are a result of not wearing a lifejacket or PFD; in addition, alcohol is associated with 40% of drownings amongst Canadians ages 15 and over.
“The key to reducing serious injuries is behaviours and attitudes; decisions such as wearing lifejackets and supervising your children saves lives,” says Dr. Ian Pike, spokesperson for Preventable. “Nobody expects to drown, but it does happen."
Watching your children is equally crucial – drowning is the leading cause of injury death for children aged 0-4 years old. Half of the children who drowned were alone and unsupervised at the time. “Parents need to be constantly aware and take protective measures when children are around water – be it the pool, bathtub, lake or the ocean,” adds Dr. Pike.
Child drowning statistics:
Between 2003 and 2007, there were an average of over 50 deaths and 244 hospitalizations from drowning across BC.
For each toddler who dies from drowning, there are some 6-10 near-drowning cases which require hospitalization. Among the survivors of near drowning, 20% sustain permanent brain damage.
There were 30 deaths from drowning and 107 injury hospitalizations from near-drowning among BC’s children and youth from 2003 to 2007.
Evidence suggests that 4-sided pool fencing can prevent 7 out of 10 drowning among children.
The human and financial toll is of drowning is shocking - in BC alone, the total direct and indirect cost is estimated to be over $17 million. Between 2000 and 2006, the place where drowning occurred, varied across age groups:
Drowning in the bathtub (64%) was the most common place for drowning among infants (Drowning deaths occurred mostly in swimming pools (44%) and bathtubs (33%) for children ages 1-4 years.
For ages 1-24 years, swimming pools were the most common place for drowning.
Hospitalizations resulting from near-drowning in water transport-related incidents were more common among ages 25-64 years (41%) and over 65 years (35%). (BCIRPU, 2008).
"As an organization dedicated to swimming and water safety training for over 60 years, it's heart-breaking to see the agony families and friends face each summer due to drowning deaths," Red Cross spokesperson. "These deaths are both tragic and alarming to us because drownings are predictable and preventable. Knowing and following some basic safety principles will help ensure that your summer is healthy and safe.”
Preventable is the first organization to undertake a province-wide social marketing strategy focusing on preventable injuries. Using integrated advertising, guerrilla marketing activities and social media, Preventable asks people to adjust their behaviours by thinking before they act, remembering to exercise preventative measures at all times whether on the road, at work, home, play or in water.
To learn more about water safety and preventable injuries, visit www.preventable.ca