As temperatures warm up and people are looking for ways to cool off, it is important to stay safe while you splash, float, and paddle.
As of 2020, there are 76 drowning deaths per year in B.C., and an average of 38 near-drowning cases that require a hospital stay per year, reports the BC Injury Research and Prevention Unit. It seems every year, there is a drowning in the Sea to Sky Corridor.
Here are some tips on staying safe while staying cool this summer in and around Squamish.
Swimming is a great way to stay cool during hot summer days. Doctors of B.C. recommends that swimmers choose somewhere where a lifeguard is on duty, stay in a group, and know first-aid if children are in the water. According to the Lifesaving Society, less than 1% of drownings occur when a lifeguard is on duty.
If you opt for somewhere without a lifeguard, keep an eye on those in the water, especially kids. People can slip under or be pulled into current in the blink of an eye. According to the Lifesaving Society, 92% of children who died by drowning did so when a supervisor was distracted or absent altogether.
While less than 6% of drownings occur from diving, writes the Lifesaving Society, it is the leading cause of sports-related spinal cord injuries, according to the Red Cross. According to the Praxis Spinal Cord Institute, 1,389 people sustain a traumatic spinal cord injury nationally per year.
“The presence of a diving board does not necessarily mean that it is safe to dive,” states the Red Cross’ website.
The Red Cross urges the public to only dive in water they can clearly see the bottom of. They should also check for objects under the water's surface – logs, stumps, boulders – as well as know how deep the water is. An estimated 95% of diving injuries happen in water 1.5m deep or less where there are no warning signs.
“Unexpectedly shallow water, or hidden obstacles underwater, can easily prove fatal. Diving from cliffs or from other great heights is exceptionally risky,” states the provincial government.
Water activities above the water still come with risks. A report by the Lifesaving Society found that 32% of water-related deaths occur while boating. Doctors of B.C. recommends the public inspect their boat, familiarize themselves with emergency protocols and check the weather before heading out. More information can be found in the Transport Canada's Safe Boating Guide.
According to the provincial government, all boaters — including paddlers — should be wearing a well-fitting personal flotation device. Kids and those who are not strong swimmers should be wearing one anytime they are in or near water. The Lifesaving Society reports that only one in 10 drownings occur when someone is wearing a lifejacket.
The consumption of alcohol greatly increases someone's risk of drowning. Think twice before drinking and getting out on the water, experts say. According to the LifeSaving Society, nearly 40% of drownings between 2009 and 2013 occurred after the consumption of alcohol.
Try and keep the fun to daylight hours. While a night swim may sound like the perfect addition to a summer bucket list, Nearly 25% of deaths, both swimming from the beach or boating-related activities, occurred after dark, according to the Lifesaving Society.
If you find yourself needing assistance on the water, dial 9-1-1 or reach the Canadian Coast Guard by dialling *16 on a cell phone or using channel 16 on a VHF radio.