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Water safety takes the stage
Drowning Prevention Week sparks awareness lessons at local pool

April Hudson
Northern News Services
Thursday, July 30, 2015

Armed with flotation devices, swimsuits and goggles, a band of tiny would-be swimmers gathered at the Fort Simpson pool on July 25 to test out their water smarts.

NNSL photo/graphic

Ella White paddles as hard as she can for the other side of the pool during a wave-swimming exercise. - April Hudson/NNSL photo

The end-of-day swim was free for all and was put on by the pool to promote Drowning Prevention Week. Instructor Madison Pilling coached the children - some who were already skilled swimmers and some who were just starting out - through ice safety, boating tips and general water welfare.

"Most of the time, drowning is preventable," said Pilling during the lesson.

The lesson began with swimming tips, such as to swim with a buddy, stay within arms reach and get the proper training before entering the water. Children were also taught to enter a water body, be it a pool, a lake or a river, feet first so they do not injure themselves on the bottom.

Boating tips included wearing life jackets, checking the weather and making a trip plan.

"It's also a good idea to tell someone where you're going," Pilling said.

As for ice safety, Pilling's tips included using designated surfaces, avoiding ice at night, supervising children and never venturing out on ice alone.

Pilling started the swimming exercises with what she calls the "wave machine," where children sat on the edge of the pool and kicked their feet in the water, creating a spray of waves. Parents formed a line a few feet into the pool and used their flutterboards to create opposing waves, leaving a narrow gauntlet for children to swim down.

One by one, the swimmers made it to the other side, some with the assistance of their flotation devices and goggles, and some all on their own.

Pilling then walked them through the Safe and Sorry game, yelling out safety tips. If a tip meant the water was safe, children could dive into the water, but if a tip meant there was danger, they had to stay out.

Drowning Prevention Week is a national initiative meant to promote safety in water and on ice.

The 2015 Canadian Drowning Report from the Lifesaving Society show summer months are the most dangerous for drowning and most drownings happen in lakes.

That report also notes that up until 2012, the territories had an average drowning rate seven times higher than the national rate.

However, that has started to drop.

Drowning Prevention Week ran from July 19 to 25.

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