Summer may be the best time of year but it can also be the most dangerous. According to the BC Injury Research and Prevention Unit “Drowning is a leading cause of death for children and near-drowning can result in lengthy hospital stays and can have life-long effects such as brain damage. On average in BC, there are 41 near-drowning cases that resulted in an acute hospitalization and 53 drowning deaths per year a large portion of which take place in the summer months.”

Last month’s news of a toddler in Mission who wandered away from her daycare and drowned in a neighbour’s pool was heartbreaking. I can’t imagine the pain her parents and surrounding community are going through. With that in mind, let’s make sure this summer is a safe one by following these summer water safety tips put out today by the Ministry of Public Safety:

* In any small craft, wear a properly fitted personal flotation device (PFD) at all times when on the water. Having one in the boat is not sufficient, as in as many as 70% of boating incidents, the person becomes separated from the boat.

* Children, non-swimmers and weak swimmers should also wear a PFD when wading or playing in the water at a river or lakeside.

* Do not mix alcohol with boating, swimming or other recreational water activities.
* A study published in the journal, Injury Prevention, suggests that someone with a blood-alcohol level of 0.10 has about 10 times the risk of drowning during boating as someone with none, and even a small amount of alcohol can increase the risk as a result of impaired co-ordination and judgment.

* Impairment is illegal for someone driving a boat, and is also a risk for passengers who are more likely to fall into the water.

* Impairment by alcohol or drugs is often a contributing factor in cases in which someone has accidentally fallen into water from shore.

* Be aware of the water conditions where you are planning your activities. Check the weather forecast before heading out and do a visual inspection of the area. Do not head down a river without being aware of the water conditions further downstream. If there are warning signs posted, obey them.

* If you are hosting visitors from another province or country, ensure that they are informed about the conditions that prevail in the lake or river you are visiting. Warn them about steep drop-offs, rapids, currents, cold water and any other hazards.

* Always supervise children anywhere near water. Pre-school-aged children can drown in only a few centimetres of water, and drowning is often silent. Young children should be within arm’s reach of a responsible adult. Swim lessons do not replace the need to supervise children around water.

* Never dive into unknown waters. Unexpectedly shallow water or hidden obstacles underwater can easily prove fatal. Diving from cliffs or from other great heights is exceptionally risky.

* Never swim alone. Always have a buddy, and keep an eye out for each other.

– Vanessa