Some things to consider before you hit the water

Water-related accidents are the furthest things from our minds as we head for the beach to let the kids play in the water. Who thinks about accidents when we get in the boat for a bit of fishing? Just being in the water, or on the water for that matter, is more temptation than we can resist on a hot summer Columbia Valley day. All we want to think about is the wind whipping in our faces as we speed across lake.

Sobering Facts

Fishing on Whitetail Lake

There is nothing to compare with it. After all, isn’t that what summer vacation is all about? Before you head out the door, however, may we remind you that there can be an unhappy downside to having fun at the lake.

Some sobering facts about water related accidents

Each year, many British Columbians and visitors to our shores lose their lives as a result of water related accidents.

The Canadian Red Cross reports that between 1991 and 2010, British Columbia had 2,016 reported deaths due to water-related incidents, second only to Ontario’s 3,214 deaths. Most of them were by drowning.

After 18 years of research, they concluded that:

  • Year after year, about 40% of all drowning deaths from immersion in Canadian waters involve boaters
  • Boating is the leading cause of fatalities from immersion and other water-related injuries.
  • From 1991-2000, according to files from all provincial and territorial coroners and medical examiners, there were 1,952 boating fatalities
  • These include 1,803 drownings and 149 water-related non-drowning deaths primarily from trauma and hypothermia
  • Boating accounted for 33% of drowning and 41% of non-drowning deaths
  • Many boaters are weak swimmers or cannot swim at all
  • Many Canadians who customarily fasten their safety belts and avoid alcohol on the roadways, think nothing of embarking on the water in a boat without the protection of a properly worn floatation device.

Here is a link to more information on boating fatalities and injuries:

For those of us who love to do all the water stuff each summer, take at look at some pretty scary data from the BC Coroner’s office (although this information is not completely current, it certainly brings the picture closer to home). In the period reported:

  • BC’s Interior (that’s us, folks!) had 35.9% of all water-related deaths in the province
  • More than 60% occurred between May and August
  • 3% were male
  • 7% were female
  • The largest proportion of deaths were in the 20-29 year-olds (21.3%)
  • Alcohol and/or drugs were contributing factors in 39.6% of drownings
  • Boating accidents (21.7%)
  • Unintentionally falling into water (16.7%)
  • Swimming (15.2%)
  • 4% occurred in lakes, rivers and the ocean
  • 1% of the victims came from outside the province and half of those occurred in the BC Interior.

Invermere beach goers

And How About Our Children?

In a public opinion survey of parents done for the Canadian Red Cross by Ipsos Reid in which BC’s statistics are consistent with those of all the other provinces, the Red Cross made some very startling discoveries about water related accidents. Here are just a few:

  • 2/3 of children who drowned were under the age of 15
  • Ages 1 to 4 years were most at risk around water, drowning at twice the rate of older children
  • 60% of child drownings happened during June, July and August
  • 5 times more child drownings occurred in private pools than in public ones
  • 34% of children drowned at private residences and recreational properties
  • 13% drowned at parks or conservation areas
  • While a child can drown in just a few centimetres of water, 98% of the parents of children under the age of 4 considered water depth a determining factor in how much supervision such children need
  • 34% of drowning cases were in 1 metre of water or less and more than 90% were without a supervising adult
  • Of all children under 19 years of age who drowned, 35% were swimming or wading and 33% were from falling from a dock or pool deck
  • 10% of children ages 1 to 4 were participants in water-related activities; 90% were from unintentional immersion (swimming, bathing, boating, etc.)
  • 20% of Canadians said they would allow a child under 6 to play near the water without a life-jacket on; in reality, 79% of children this age who drowned entered the water unintentionally.
  • Nearly half the parents believed they could supervise their children without constantly watching, checking them from time to time. Fact: Drowning kills silently; there are usually no audible signs of distress.
  • 85% of parents said that having a swimming buddy with their child allows the parent to relax the supervision around water.
  • 35% of drowned children were alone; 24% were with a buddy and among children 5 to 14, nearly twice that percentage were with a buddy.
  • 98% of parents believed children must wear a life-jacket on a boat
  • 82% of children who drowned were not wearing one or it was not fastened properly
  • In nearly half of these drowning, there wasn’t even a life-jacket on board
  • In children under 5 years of age who drowned while in a boat, virtually 100% of them had no life-jacket on board at all
  • 80% of the 10 to 14-year-olds had no life-jacket on board.
  • 50% of ages15 to 18 had no life-jacket on board
It's the Law


It’s the law!

Legally, there must be an appropriately-sized life-jacket on board for every person. And they must be fastened properly or they will not inflate.

  • 28% or parents said they don’t wear a life-jacket and 21% said they don’t wear one when there is a child on board
  • 16% of Canadian parents believed it is safe for them to not wear a life-jacket when underway in a boat, if the waves are calm.
  • Among children who drowned while boating in calm water, not a single one was wearing a life-jacket. In nearly 8 inout of 10 of these cases (78%), a life-jacket for the child was not even present.
  • 6% of Canadian parents said they would allow a child who doesn’t know how to swim to be in or on the water without a life-jacket
  • 17% of Canadians would allow children under 5 to be alone, unsupervised around a pool
  • 30% would allow the same for children aged 5 to 10
  • only 50% of parents say they always supervise their children around water
Water Safety Tips

Water safety tips from the experts.

The Canadian Red Cross offers water-lovers some safety tips that, if observed, can and will help to prevent water related injuries and deaths:

  • When boating, ensure everyone in the boat has a properly-fitted life-jacket on and fastened.
  • Do not consume alcohol before or during swimming or boating activities.
  • Be cautious about swimming in currents and know what to do if you get into trouble.
  • Get trained through swimming and water safety lessons.
  • Get your Pleasure Craft Operator Card if you operate a boat (it’s the law!).
  • Know how to respond in an emergency by taking first-aid lessons.
  • Ensure children are supervised when near water, whether at home or on vacation. Adult supervision is the best protection for children –- even for those who can swim.
  • Ensure that your backyard pool is fully fenced with a self-closing, self-latching gate.
  • When not using your home pool, clear all toys out of the water and away from the edge, as these can often tempt children to the water’s edge.
  • Ensure you have emergency equipment, including a first aid kit and a phone, in the immediate pool area.

Just these few extra precautions can ensure that you and your family have a safe and happy British Columbia summer!

You can find more helpful information about water safety by visiting the Red Cross website at

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