Tips for a safe summer dip at popular Manitoba swimming holes

Before you go for a splash at one of Manitoba's many refreshing summer watering holes, there's some things you need to keep in mind in order to stay safe — especially with water levels as high as they are this year across the province.

Put down phones, keep kids within arm's reach at pool or beach, Lifesaving Society says

The RCMP and Lifesaving Society have released a list of tips for safe swimming this summer as part of National Drowning Prevention Week. (CBC)

Before you go for a splash at one of Manitoba's many refreshing summer watering holes, there's some things you need to keep in mind in order to stay safe — especially with water levels as high as they are this year across the province.

The third week of July historically has the most drowning deaths Canada-wide every year, according to RCMP. That's one reason why the Lifesaving Society is running an ad campaign this week to raise awareness about the risks facing swimmers when they wade or splash into the water.

2 water deaths in 1 day

Heavy downpours this spring and summer have made for swollen lakes and fast-flowing rivers. In less than a week, there have been three water-related accidents in Manitoba that cost two people their lives.

In one such incident, a five-year-old girl wearing a life-jacket died after the canoe she, her young brother and father were in capsized in the frigid waters of the Churchil River.

These accidents prompted the RCMP to issue a water safety warning for people seeking relief from the hot summer sun. 

"The scary reality is that drowning is the second leading cause of injury-related deaths for Canadian children," RCMP said in a statement Sunday. "Every year on average, nearly 60 children drown across Canada. However, there are many things you can do to keep children safe around water."

Safety tips

Two of the most important things to remember before you or your kids head off to play at a pool, beach, lake or stream is to be prepared in advance and know that in the event of an emergency, time is of the essence.

The RCMP recommends parents and caregivers keep a close eye on their kids at all times when a pool or lake is the source of summer fun.
A little girl plays in the water at a beach at Birds Hill Provincial Park. (CBC)

On top of being sober and vigilant while you supervise your kids at play, the RCMP and Lifesaving Society maintain parents should:

  • Ensure you and your kids are fitted with the right personal floatation device (PFD or life-jacket) based on body size and weight.

  • Teach kids the risks involved with swimming and to always make sure an adult is watching them nearby.

  • Swim only where it has been deemed safe to swim.

  • Read the rules: For the most part, beaches have them posted prominently near the water.

  • Contact popular swimming destinations ahead of time; ask about water conditions.

  • Lead by example: follow the rules, boat and swim safely and only while sober.

  • In the event someone is drowning or in distress, yell for help and try to find a rope or floatation device to throw them. Call 911 if there aren't any lifeguards around. ​

  • Unless you are a trained professional, never jump in after a drowning person. Untrained, well-intentioned people have died trying to save others from drowning, who often panic and can inadvertently pull their rescuer down with them. 

Backyard pools remain the area where kids under the age of five die most often in fatal drowning incidents, most of which are a result of a lack of proper supervision, the Lifesaving Society says.

'Peak of drowning season'

Carl Shier, CEO of the Lifesaving Society–Manitoba Branch, said this is the "peak of drowning season."

"The two go hand-in-hand: the warm water and the ability for people to enjoy that recreation and go out to the water when the weather is right," Shier said.

As part of National Drowning Prevention Week, Shier said he wants even seasoned swimmers and boaters to know "that it can happen to you."

Shier said it's important to learn the skills necessary to keeping your head above water.

"We're not born with them, and unfortunately we can die without them," he said.

Shier added that distraction is the enemy — for kids and parents.

"In this social media age, people are distracted from their sole responsibility: to have close supervision with children," he said. "Drowning happens very quickly, and if it isn't fatal it can be a life-long sustained disability that a child who has been in submersion can face."
A boy plays in the sand along the water's edge at Birds Hill Provincial Park. (CBC)