Open Water Wisdom
By Barb Kusyanto, Chief Administrative Officer, Lifesaving Society Alberta & Northwest Territories
The majestic, open waters of Canada beckon many to come, swim, paddle and play. However, despite their beauty, these waters also pose a hazard for both visitors and residents alike. Canadian waters remain cold enough year-round to cause cold water shock response, and swimming skill alone is not enough to conquer this.
Drowning is preventable. The Lifesaving Society and Canadian Red Cross have partnered to develop a drowning and injury prevention campaign for remote communities. This campaign is aimed at improving the safety of children and youth (ages 0-19) involved in sport, recreation and play activity on or near open water.
The principle messages of the campaign are:
- Keep a watch out for each other, especially children, and your surroundings (wind, weather, waves)
- Beware of cold water and its shocking effects
- Wear a lifejacket
- Embrace safety knowledge for yourself, your family and your community
Open Water Wisdom is seeking local leaders who have a desire to change the way their community thinks about water activity and safety on and around the water. These leaders will be active in their community and committed to leading a water activity safety awareness and education campaign. Leaders and communities will be equipped with an education tool kit, a media support package and samples of approved vest-type lifejackets in a range of sizes. Once the leaders have determined what best fits the children and youth in their community, they will be sent a supply of comfortable lifejackets for use in sports, recreation or near-water play and future activities.
Priority will be given to rural and remote communities with little or no access to ongoing learn-to-swim programs, formal water safety courses or vital safety equipment such as comfortable lifejackets.
Open Water Wisdom is a collaborative effort of the Lifesaving Society and Canadian Red Cross and is made possible through a financial contribution from the Public Health Agency of Canada.