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Danger on B.C. Rivers and LakesAugust 8th, 2012 | by admin admin | in Safety Advice | 0
It has been a sobering two weeks on B.C.’s rivers and lakes. A 12-year-old girl drowned in Skaha Lake after a sandbar gave way. An elderly couple and a Scottish tourist strayed into Kettle River’s deadly rapids and went over Cascade Falls while tubing. A young father drank too much and jumped into the Skeena River with friends. He didn’t surface. A 59-year-old man out fishing--without wearing a personal floatation device (PFD)--jumped into Carp Lake to retrieve his hat. He’s still missing.
The B.C. Coroners Service is urging you to be extra cautious around water. Even at the best of times, B.C. waters tend to be colder than elsewhere in Canada or even the world. Our lakes have steep drop offs too. These natural dangers have been compounded this year by heavy rains and exceptionally high runoff from the winter’s snowpack. The result: high water levels and fast flow rates, especially in the Interior.
That makes rafting, canoeing and tubing much riskier than normal. If you’re planning on water activities this summer, use sound judgement. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Red Cross advise:
- Don’t drink. Alcohol affects your balance, judgment and co-ordination. Sun and heat worsen these effects. “Among adolescents and adults, alcohol use is involved in up to 70% of deaths associated with water recreation…”
- Wear a PFD (that’s the new word for lifejacket). In 2010, 88 per cent of U.S. drowning victims in boating accidents were not wearing PFDs.
- Don’t hyperventilate before swimming underwater or hold your breath for long periods of time. This may cause “shallow water blackout.”
- Learn to swim. Formal lessons prevent drowning in children aged 1 to 4.
- Check local weather conditions and forecasts. Don’t be caught in high winds or a thunderstorm.
- Don’t try to swim against a current. Instead, swim gradually out of it by going across the current.
- Avoid diving head first, unless you are trained to do so and are sure the water is deep enough.
- Make sure you have enough energy to finish your swim.
- Never swim alone.
And keep in mind that “cold water” may not be that cold. Temperatures from 20 to 25 degrees Celsius (about 80 F) can trigger a cold shock response. Disorientation, hyperventilation or cardiac arrest may result. So, check the water temperature before you dive in.
If you fall into cold water, don’t panic. Try to conserve body heat while finding a way out of the water. Hypothermia can take 30 minutes to set in. Avoid over-exertion. Swimming and treading water will drive blood to your fingers and toes, making you lose heat faster.
A little planning and preparation can go a long way to keeping you and your family safe on B.C. waters.
Cold Water: How to Increase Your Chance of Survival. Jane Blockley.
Cold Water Survival. U.S. Search and Rescue Task Force.
Note: This blog discusses general safety and security topics. It is not intended to provide comprehensive advice or guidance. In all matters of personal safety and security, we encourage readers to research topics in depth and consult a security professional about specific concerns.