Thanks to a couple of lifesavers from the Lifesaving Society’s Alberta and NWT branch, a few residents in town are now equipped with swimming skills that they can use when they find themselves treading in dangerous waters.
Water Smart coordinators Jenika Kopala and Gabe Ferreira hosted two water safety sessions on July 17 and 18, which were free for participants of all ages.
The first session was a river safety course at the boat launch site, where a handful of residents learned of the dangers that can come with rivers and streams.
“Things such as drop-offs, currents. Being aware of weather changes, and then of course any sort of boating safety tips,” said Kopala.
The second session was held at the Midnight Sun Complex, which revolved around general water safety and swimming techniques.
“We go around and play a bunch of games to help raise awareness around water safety. Things like boating safety, how to wear a life jacket, ice safety,” said Kopala. “We incorporate it into games for the kids, and just general basic teaching of swimming skills as well.”
Participants also engaged in the group’s Swim to Survive program, where they picked up basic survival swimming abilities such as treading water and more.
“We also practiced just swimming a long distance, and then things like boat capsizing,” said Kopala. “We flip the boat over and show them how to get out from underneath the capsized boat. We also play ice game, where we practice crawling out of the ice.”
A total of six participants participated in the final session and received certificates for completing it.
“It’s all about swim survival,” said Kopala.
The pair were also in Fort McPherson and Tuktoyaktuk earlier in the week, which attracted 20 participants in the former and around 35 in the latter, according to Kopala.
“What we’re finding is often drownings are occurring 10 metres from the shore. That can be anyone from swimmers to non-swimmers in a panic situation,” she said. “So swim survival is one of our biggest mandates that we’re trying to put out there and the basic skills needed to survive an unexpected fall into the water.”
In their 2018 Canadian Drowning report, the Lifesaving Society found that there was a total of 283 water-related fatalities in Canada.
Of that number, 93 occurred in Ontario, followed by 59 in Quebec and 50 in British Columbia. There was only one reported drowning death in the NWT that year and three in Nunavut.
According to their website, the Lifesaving Society is an international organization that operates in over 25 countries.
The organization has been offering water safety and water rescue lessons in Canada since 1896, and around one million Canadians participate in their swimming, lifesaving, lifeguard, first aid and leadership training programs each year.