Edmonton fire, Canadian Red Cross remind boaters to wear life-jackets

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Edmonton fire, Canadian Red Cross remind boaters to wear life-jackets

The long weekend is just around the corner and that means boating season is upon us.

The Canadian Red Cross is marking the occasion by celebrating May 18 as National Life-jacket Day in an effort to raise awareness around boater safety.

"During the boating season in Canada is when we have the most number of deaths due to drowning," said Kevin Paes, manager of swimming and water safety with the Canadian Red Cross.

"The largest cause of death when they are on the water is because they forget to wear or are not wearing a life-jacket properly."

According to Paes, between 30 and 40 people drown in open water each year in Alberta. Across Canada, approximately 160 people die in open water due to improper use of life-jackets.

Patti Stark, a community mobilization co-ordinator with the University of Alberta's Injury Prevention Centre, says there are a few things to be aware of as we head into the May long weekend.

"We want people to stop for a minute and take a few minutes to think about the potential risks that are associated with being around the water," Stark said. "And there are a couple of easy things that people should be thinking about to protect themselves and their families." 

Those things are: 

- Actively supervise children - Drowning is the second leading cause of preventable death in children under 10. If they are playing around the water's edge, you need to keep an eye on them;

- Wear a life-jacket - A properly fitting life-jacket will not save you unless it is being worn properly;

- Get training - More than half of the drownings in Alberta are swimming accidents. Adults and children should learn to swim, and weak swimmers should always be supervised;

- Don't drink and boat - Nearly one-quarter of all boating-related drownings involve alcohol.

"Just having [a lifejacket] in your possession is not good enough, you need to have it on and use it appropriately," Stark said.  

Brad Hoekstra, chief of special operations with the Edmonton fire department, said Edmonton-area boaters need to be especially cautious on the North Saskatchewan River this time of year.

"It is such a beautiful river, but there are so many hazards, as you can tell from the pace of the movement of the water right now," Hoekstra said.

Hoekstra suggested you should have an emergency plan when you head out on the water for the weekend.

Notify a friend or a family member when you are going out and when you expect to return. That way, if there is an accident, people can respond quickly and appropriately.  

"Go out and enjoy yourselves," Stark said. "Just take a few minutes to think about those things to keep you and your family safe so you can be out on the water today and come back and enjoy it again the next day."