As this week marks the beginning of Summer, many people in Prince George are already flocking to the rivers for some family fun on their boat, raft, or canoe.
Unfortunately there are a number of unintentional deaths that occur on the water each year, which is why safety is paramount. Master Instructor with The Canadian Red Cross, Debbie Heywood, says the biggest problem results in people not wearing a life jacket. “Lots of time they are in the boat, they may be wearing, but it’s not done up properly, and that actually accounts for 88 per cent of deaths in and out around the water.”
In fact, over the last 20 years there has been 10, 511 unintentional water-related deaths in Canada according to the Canadian Red Cross. Men are most at risk, accounting for 93 per cent of all boating related deaths. Having the proper equipment at all times is essential. It’s important to have a whistle to alert others in case of an emergency, a knife to cut yourself free from any brush you may be caught in, and a bailer to pale water from a sinking boat.
Heywood says people only have a matter of seconds to react in the event of a possible drowning. “Call for help first thing and try to get attention of anyone else around you, get something to throw to them, preferably a line so you can help pull them back in.”
Even before heading out, it’s important to realize rivers in Norther British Columbia are classified as cold water environments. Anthony Gagne with OVERhang Swift Water Rescue says cold water is a concern and river conditions always have to be monitored before heading out. “Hypothermia, even on a day where it’s 30 degrees is a really big concern,” he said. “The river is constantly moving you away so even if you’re able to have your head above water and you’re not actively drowning, you’re still maybe getting even further and further from help.”
In the end, the Canadian Red Cross says people should be over prepared. Whether it’s boating, rafting, or canoeing, it’s essential to have more than enough life jackets, a first aid kit, and items such as extra paddles, a cell phone, and a fire extinguisher when boating at all time. In the end, getting educated by taking all of the precautions, making smart decisions, and being aware of one’s surroundings is key to having a safe and fun season on the river.