Taking aim at attitudes around water

Safety initiative unveiled at Willows Beach

A swimmer stands beside a float placed in the waters off Willows Beach by the Canadian Red Cross to remind people to be careful in and around the water.

While drownings are rather infrequent in Greater Victoria, a new campaign aims to remind people to be aware on and around the water.

Whether it’s at Willows Beach, Thetis Lake or the inflatable backyard pool, drowning deaths and accidents are preventable. That’s the message behind a new joint campaign of the Canadian Red Cross and B.C. Hydro called Preventable – short for the Community Against Preventable Injuries.

The campaign kicked off under sunny skies last week at Willows Beach, where organizers blew up a three-metre beach ball laid out towels printed with the words “Before you think only other swimmers drown – have a word with yourself.”

“It’s all about making sure you don’t think it’s somebody else that might drown, but thinking about yourself,” said Bruce Andrew, spokesperson for the Canadian Red Cross Coastal Region.

“We call it Preventable because if people go out to a lake and had learned how to swim and taken courses on safety in the water, they’re already able to recognize what they should do.”

A change in attitudes and behaviours could help prevent some of the 60 drowning deaths that happen in B.C. each year, he added.

Most drownings involve children in swimming pools and bathtubs, and often happen when they are alone or unsupervised. About 35 per cent happen in lakes, rivers and streams and another 10 per cent happen in the ocean, according to the Lifesaving Society’s B.C. and Yukon division.

“Often it’s people unfamiliar with the water and people unprepared to go into the water,” said the society’s executive director, Dale Miller. “The locals are probably very aware of the dangers and therefore, we do not see too many (drownings) in the area.”

According to the society, only six drowning deaths have happened outdoors in Greater Victoria since 2006, although some of those were attributed to suicide.

For more information, please visit www.preventable.ca.

ecardone@vicnews.com

Did you know?

• Drowning is the leading cause of injury death for children up to age four.

• Half of those children who drowned were unsupervised.

• Most drowning deaths in that age group happened in swimming pools.

• Alcohol was a factor in 40 per cent of drownings among Canadians over 15.

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