Summer in Canada is almost synonymous with water. Perhaps it’s our almost infinite number of freshwater lakes, rivers and ponds, the two oceans that surround us, or just our many home and community swimming pools, but for most of us, summer means spending time either on, near, or in the water.
But there's a dark side to all that blue water. Drowning is the second leading cause of preventable death for children under the age of 10, according to the Lifesaving Society. And typically, two thirds of drowning victims don't even intend to actually go swimming in the water – and most of them know how to swim.
"The majority of drowning deaths are people who know how to swim, and almost 70 per cent of them are within 15 metres of safety," says Sindy Parsons, public education manager with the Lifesaving Society. Those are pretty scary statistics for anyone who likes to spend their summer near water.
According to Parsons, the three biggest water safety skills everyone should learn is how to roll into the water, how to tread water and how to swim 50 metres to safety. Those skills are the backbone of the Lifesaving Society's Swim to Survive program – a program that teaches both children and adults how to survive an unexpected trip into the water so they don't become another statistic.
The key, Parsons adds, is not to panic when you fall into water. That happens too often; a person falls in, becomes disoriented, panics and actually starts swimming in the wrong direction. By the time help arrives, it's often too late.
Instead, if you do fall in, the Swim to Survive program recommends that you:
The Swim to Survive program is offered to adults and children of all ages, and is also offered free of charge to grade three students in schools across Ontario.
A journalist with more than 10 years experience, Alison’s work has appeared in a number of top Canadian publications, including glow, Oxygen, Canadian Running and more. She is the former editor of a number of well-respected Canadian and American trade journals and recipient of a Kenneth R. Wilson Gold Award of Excellence in feature article writing. She is a part-time faculty member at Sheridan College’s journalism department, as well as an avid runner and fitness enthusiast.