Danger! Children reminded of the dangers of fast-moving flood waters

·3 min read

SOUTH BRUCE – Every year we hear the terrifying and sometime tragic news that someone has been on or near, and ends up in, what they thought were safe waterways.

Floods can occur at any time of the year. However, the risks of flooding are higher in the spring with increased water levels from snowmelt and frozen or saturated soils. Further, at this time of the year temperatures rise above freezing and the sun’s rays are stronger, making ice unstable.

Saugeen Valley Conservation Authority’s Nancy Griffin, outdoor education co-ordinator, said that although the snow is mostly gone in towns by now, there’s still plenty of it at higher elevations. The water will be higher than normal for quite some time.

Generally, March and April in Grey and Bruce counties are not appropriate months to be on the ice. Of additional concern is the fast moving, cold water. Children are naturally drawn to water and with cold temperatures, thin ice conditions and slippery banks, this could spell disaster.

For over 30 years, education staff from Saugeen Valley Conservation Authority (SVCA) have presented flood safety programs to elementary schools in its watershed. To date, over 50,000 children have participated in these programs and can attest to the importance of staying away from dangerous waterways. The programming is interactive, with demonstrations designed to teach students how a flood happens, SVCA’s role in flood forecasting and warning, and hands-on experiments about the effects of hypothermia, all to ensure the message is being understood.

Griffin demonstrates the effects of very cold water by having someone put their hand in a bucket of snow and water. After one minute, picking up a pencil is difficult, and writing with it is impossible. This illustrates why getting to safety after tumbling into icy water is so difficult. Better to stay well away from slippery banks and fast-moving water.

COVID-19 has meant no one besides staff and students can enter school. Griffin explained she wanted to run the program anyway, so youngsters could benefit from the important messages about safety around flood waters.

This year, SVCA has been presenting the message at its Wild Encounters Outdoor School at Sulphur Spring Conservation Area. While the program will not be presented in-person at schools this year, local community youth groups are encouraged to register and participate in these free programs offered over the next couple of months.

Parents, please take the time to remind your children to stay safe and stay well away from waterways. Said Griffin, “Stay away from the water – the ice is not safe, and the water is fast-moving.”

The Wild Encounters Outdoor School runs in three-week sessions, one full day a week (Fridays). There is a cost to this program. It’s designed for children aged five-12. Griffin said that because there are only 14 children registered per session, they can do a lot of things not possible with larger groups, for example, such as dissecting owl pellets. The learning is hands-on, and Griffin said the participants are fascinated.

Some of the participants are home-schooled, some attend school online, and some are in regular school but spend their three Fridays away from their classrooms.

With no field trips, students benefit from outdoor activities and learning, Griffin said.

If you are interested in booking a Flood Waters and You Student Safety Program, or in learning more about the Wild Encounters Outdoor School, please contact Griffin through the SVCA website, email at n.griffin@svca.on.ca or by calling 519-369-4706 (cell).

Pauline Kerr, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Walkerton Herald Times