Importance of water safety highlighted at World Drowning Prevention Day ceremony

EDMONTON — A ceremony at the Alberta Legislature grounds Saturday recognized World Drowning Prevention Day and the importance of water safety.

The Lifesaving Society’s Alberta and Northwest Territories branch hosted the ceremony and flag raising.  

Joe Zatylny, Edmonton Fire Rescue Services chief, said the city has seen a significant increase in drowning and water rescue incidents this year.

“Today is a good reminder of water risk,” he said.

“Drowning is something that is preventable. Everyone should have swimming lessons and know how to swim.”

Kelly Carter, CEO of the Lifesaving Society branch, said one of the goals of the event was highlighting water safety and drawing further awareness to the record number of drownings occurring this year.

According to Carter, the heat wave and pandemic could be factors to their increase.

“Due to the pandemic restrictions, more people are forced to recreate outside and are enjoying the great outdoors,” he said. “We’ve seen a closure of recreation facilities and pools over the last 18 months that’s limited swimming lessons for children and safe environments for children.

“I think we need to double down our efforts here and we need to remind people they need to wear a lifejacket at all times when they’re in a boat,” Carter added. “Drowning is silent.”

Before anyone goes out on the water for recreational purposes, Zatylny said people should be aware of their surroundings, plan accordingly, and ensure they have a working personal floatation device.

“There are very simple things you can do to prevent incidents from happening,” he said.

“Make sure that you are planning your adventure on the river, you have the skill, and you know your personal limits.”

The fire chief recommended that if someone sees a person in distress on the water to immediately dial 911 and monitor where they are in the water until emergency crews arrive.

“Keep talking to the person that’s in the water in distress. Keep your eye on them as well. When our fire crews arrive on scene it is incredibly helpful to know where they see them or where the last time they saw them was.”

Zatylny said it can be dangerous for someone to go into the water themselves.

“If something does happen, call 911 immediately so we can send our trained professionals with their rescue equipment out to rescue or save the victim,” he added.

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