Rogue waves are a real danger — 1st Canadian coastal safety program coming to Pacific Rim Park

Some of the people who drown never even intended to get wet. 

That's one of the warnings included in the CoastSmart program being rolled-out in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve near Tofino and Ucluelet.

CoastSmart is Canada's first coastal safety program and it is based on similar programs in Australia, Hawaii and the United Kingdom. 

Randy Mercer is the visitor safety technician for the park reserve and he says CoastSmart is meant to inform visitors about the hazards of the shoreline.

"The main aspects we focused on were the unpredictability of the ocean or the unexpected types of hazards," Mercer said,

"We focused on the power of the ocean and the debilitating affects of the cold water."

Mercer says when visitors arrive in the area they don't realize the immediate potential dangers of the coastline. 

"Within seconds of getting out of your car, you can be in a pretty changing environment," Mercer said. 

The CoastSmart program will include consistent warning signs along the shoreline and the training of local safety ambassadors.

Mercer says technology is also an important part of CoastSmart with an app set to be be launched this summer

The Pacific Rim Park Reserve has more than a million visitors a year and, according to Mercer, it is the first time many of them have ever seen the ocean or visited a coastline. 

Many locals have witnessed a near miss

Mercer says that in the process of creating the CoastSmart program they heard from many locals who had witnessed visitors putting themselves in harm's way.

"Everybody that we talked to had a story about seeing somebody having a near miss or when a person was unaware that they were in a really hazardous situation." 

Although primarily designed for visitors, the CoastSmart program is also a safety reminder for locals as well. 

Mercer himself grew up on the coast and he has had a close call on the water. 

"I was pushing my limits one day," Mercer said, "I got knocked off my feet, almost swept into the ocean, and nobody could have helped me.

"I was just dumped on the sand before the next wave came in, and I was able to just get myself out of there."

The CoastSmart program is an initiative between Parks Canada, the District of Tofino and the Resort Municipality of Ucluelet.