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Cochrane Fire Services offer tips for water safety during Drowning Prevention Week

“It can fluctuate at a moment's notice. When it seems like it’s knee deep, you can take another step and it’s clear over your head."
20210529 River Rescue 0167
Fire-Rescue crews patrol the Bow River. EVAN BUHLER RMO PHOTO

COCHRANE— Coming on the heels of a historic heatwave that rocked the province and increased traffic and rescues on the Bow River, Cochrane Fire Services is offering water safety tips to honour Drowning Prevention Week running from July 18 to 24.

“With the nice weather right now we’re seeing more and more people on the river, and we’re seeing lot more young people on the river as well,” said Cochrane Fire Services inspector Jeff Avery. “We are getting a few more calls than usual for river rescues, whether it’s pet related or whether it’s people related we are going out a little more than usual right now.”

Avery said in a typical year for Cochrane Fire Services responds to roughly 10 river rescues— That number has already been surpassed this year.

“We just have to be extremely, extremely careful when you are by that river, especially when it’s really high right now. It’s still a little murky, there’s still a lot of wood floating around in the river and the current is really fast right now,” he said. “I don’t think people really understand how fast that river does flow.”

He said the Bow River can be unpredictable, especially given its proximity to the Ghost Lake Reservoir.

“It can fluctuate at a moment's notice. When it seems like it’s knee deep, you can take another step and it’s clear over your head,” Avery said. “That current can sweep you away really fast.”

But the river is not the only body of water that you should be cautious around.

“Even though outdoor fun can lead to drowning and accidents, we have to talk about indoor pools because it happens as well,” Avery said.

He noted it has been years since Cochrane Fire Services had to respond to a drowning in the community. The last incident of a near-drowning was the highly publicized incident involving Councillor Marni Fedeyko’s young son Corbyn.

In February 2018, Corbyn was dropped off at the Spray Lake Sawmills Jayman BUILT Aquatic Centre for a friend’s birthday party.

Several of Corbyn’s friends decided to explore the deep end of the pool, and Corbyn tagged along, following in their wake.

It was in the deep waters of the pool where he slipped under and lost consciousness.

The lifeguard staff jumped in when they noticed him slip under the surface and retrieved the young boy from the bottom of the pool.

Once back on solid ground, the staff began administering CPR, and the child was eventually revived.

Fedeyko said it was a shock for everyone involved.

“It shook up staff, it shook up our emergency services and it shook up our family, obviously,” she said.

Fedeyko said it is important to be prepared, to always have water safety in mind and to make sure youth know how to swim.

“Accidents can happen in the blink of an eye,” she said. “Don’t worry if you feel silly wearing a life jacket, or you don’t want to wear one, things can happen faster than you think.”

Avery said there are several things you can do to ensure that you to stay safe on the water this summer.

Safety measures include wearing a life jacket at all times when on the water. Avery noted life jackets are mandatory on the Bow River for all ages.

He added alcohol is also prohibited and can lead to poor decision making, which could put you in danger.

Rubber rafts are commonly seen on the Bow River, Avery said, and those types of crafts are not made to withstand contact with many of the debris and rocks in the river.

Avery said having a plan in place in the event of a capsize is also a good idea. Carrying emergency whistles on you is a great way to get the attention of emergency services, and a good way to locate members of your party if you have been scattered by the current.

Trip planning is also a good idea, he added, recommending anyone venturing out on the water let a family member or friend know where you will be and check in when your activity is wrapped up.