Swimming offers a full-body workout, can help you manage pain and boosts your mood as you connect with nature. But swimming in open water can be risky. Observed from July 16 to 22, Drowning Prevention Week reminds Canadians to swim safely in open water. Learn more about water safety, preventing drowning, and protecting yourself and your family while swimming.
Understand the Dangers of Open Water
While swimming in oceans, rivers, or lakes is fun, relaxing, and beneficial, it can also be dangerous. In 2020, six in 10 drownings occurred in open water, according to the Lifesaving Society. Factors that increase your risk include a lack of lifeguards, swimming alone, consuming alcohol, and not wearing protective gear. Plan to address and minimize these and other potential dangers as you swim.
Learn to Swim
Before entering open water, ensure you and your family know how to swim. Take lessons from a trained lifeguard or a learn-to-swim program.
Also, verify that everyone can successfully perform basic skills, such as:
- Tread water for at least one minute
- Swim 50 metres
- Orient yourself in open water
- Roll into deep water from a boat
- Swim and tread water while fully clothed
- Breathe while swimming in choppy water.
Likewise, learn how to rescue someone from deep water. Prioritize your safety, then use the drowning prevention techniques talk, reach and throw to help others.
Develop Basic First Aid Skills
Prepare to address life-threatening emergencies like cramps, fatigue or injury that could occur while swimming in open water. In addition to recognizing and honouring your physical limits, learn how to stretch cramping muscles, dress routine wounds and perform CPR. Ensure everyone in your party knows how to dial 911 or contact emergency services.
Never Swim Alone
Strong or experienced swimmers can become disoriented, fatigued or injured in open water. Always swim with a buddy. If you must enter open water without a partner, share your location with a trusted family member or friend before you jump or wade in and let them know when you leave the water.
Never let children swim alone in open water. Watch them closely and remain within arm’s length. This way, you can watch for signs of distress as you protect your loved ones.
Wear a brightly coloured swim cap or use a buoy to ensure others can see you in the water. Know who you share the water with and maintain a safe distance from the watercraft.
Swim in Daylight
After dark, you could become disoriented, drift too far from shore or run into hazards. Plan your excursions carefully and swim only during daylight hours to avoid dangers as you play.
Wear Protective Gear
In addition to your swimsuit, pack gear that can protect you in open water. Carry a whistle, wear a life jacket and pack an emergency flotation device. Depending on the water temperature, you may also want to wear an insulated wet suit to avoid hypothermia or cold water shock. Charge your cell phone if you need to contact emergency services.
Seaweed, buried logs, floating debris, riptides, and strong currents are common open-water hazards. Inspect the water for these and other potential dangers. Then, decide how to proceed. You may wish to avoid certain areas as part of your drowning prevention plan. For example, riptides usually occur in surf zones and can be 20 feet wide. To escape a riptide, remain calm and swim parallel to the shore.
Be Aware of Your Surroundings
Swimming or floating a great distance in open water is easy without realizing how far you’ve gone. If that happens, you may not have the stamina or energy to return to shore. So, choose a landmark and swim to it. Or commit to staying a certain distance from shore. And stop often to check your surroundings as you promote water safety.
Plan Your Exit
Rivers, lakes and oceans don’t have an exit ladder. So, inspect the area and identify access points where you can safely exit. For example, avoid muddy or rocky banks and choppy water.
Alcohol, cannabis and certain medications impair your judgement, slow your reflexes, and reduce your ability to recognize danger, make decisions or stay safe. That’s why you want to remain sober every time you swim.
As you enjoy swimming in Canada, practise these water safety tips. Discover additional safety techniques when you sign up for Wayfarer’s monthly newsletters. If you’re looking for exceptional service and a trusted insurance provider, request a quote for RV insurance to protect your home away from home.