Alberta lifejacket loaner program expands

Seven "lifejacket loaner" stations are open across the province of Alberta this long weekend, in an effort by the Government of Alberta's Tourism, Parks and Recreation division and the Lifesaving Society to reach out to boaters.

Boaters, rafters, swimmers urged to take precautions this long weekend

It is against the law to go tubing in the waterways within the limits of the City of Calgary withouth a lifejacket. (Eric Gay/AP)

Seven "lifejacket loaner" stations are open across the province of Alberta this long weekend, in an effort by the Government of Alberta's Tourism, Parks and Recreation division and the Lifesaving Society to reach out to boaters.

Alberta lifejacket lending stations (June/July 2011):

  • Carson-Pegasus Provincial Park (north of Whitecourt)
  • Pigeon Lake Provincial Park (Pigeon Lake)
  • Ghost Reservoir Provincial Recreation Area (Ghost Lake, west of Cochrane)
  • Crimson Lake Provincial Park (northeast of Rocky Mountain House)
  • Gregoire Lake Provincial Park (south east of Fort McMurray)
  • Young's Point Provincial Park (Sturgeon Lake, west of Valleyview)
  • Touchwood Lake (east of Lac La Biche)

Barbara Kusyanto, the chief administrative officer of the Lifesaving Society of Alberta and Northwest Territories, said the lifejackets kept people safe on the water.

"Fifty per cent of individuals out there who drown in boating incidents were not wearing their lifejackets," she said.

"Lifejackets save lives."

The lifejacket lending program ran on the honour system at two lakes in a pilot program in 2010. Not a single jacket was lost. The loaner stations are now offering 200 lifejackets in various sizes at seven Provincial Parks.

Kusyanto said she would like to see similar stations at every lake.

"Nobody wants to see the tragedy of a drowning. And if this can avert that, then we'd love to see this everywhere."

Calgary rafters warned

The Calgary Fire Department is also concerned about drownings in Calgary, particularly this long weekend as thousands of boaters, rafters, and swimmers are expected to flock to the Bow and Elbow rivers.

Larry Fisher, Batallion chief of the Calgary Fire Department, said that the fast flow of the river this year will make it difficult to swim ashore if a boat overturns.

"Be very careful, be very vigilant. The water is very cold. That will sap your energy very quickly, he said.

Fisher said he's already seen many rafters breaking the rules this year, the first of which is: wear a lifejacket.

"I've seen families on the river where the mom and dad will have a PFD — a personal flotation device — and the children don't. I can't for the life of me explain that," he said.

City of Calgary bylaw 9084 states that you must wear a lifejacket while on the water in a boat, inner tube, raft or other flotation device in waterways in and around the city. The maximum fine for a violation of the lifejacket bylaw is $500.

It is also illegal to be drinking on the river or in a public place, which carries a fine of $115.

Fisher said that rafts should never be tied together, and rafters should come prepared.

"Paddles are a must," he said.

"I've been out on the river where people were using twigs as paddles. Your life is worth more to you than that."

With files from the CBC's Paul Moore