Recent drownings underline importance of floatation devices

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By Shawn Hayward TC Media— Clarenville Two separate drownings saddened communities and families in the Clarenville-Bonavista region in the latter part of July. On the 20th, the start of the recreational cod fishery, a 51-year-old man drowned after falling from his boat off Bonavista. Then, on July 23, a 69-year-old man was found drowned in Northwest Arm after an accident while boating. Neither victim was wearing a floatation device when the accidents happened. Jeanette Jobson, executive director of the Lifesaving Society, Newfoundland and Labrador, says floatation devices save lives and everyone who goes on the water should wear one. “It is very sad and frustrating, to know that people are still on the water and choosing not to wear floatation that might have very well saved their lives,” she says. “All we can do is increase messaging to inform people and make sure they know what happens if they fall unexpectedly into the water, and how they can rescue themselves.” Floatation devices keep people afloat while they experience the “gasp” reflex of falling into cold water, according to Jobson. A lifejacket will turn a person upright, even if they’re unconscious, while a personal floatation device (PFD) will just provide buoyancy. “You’re just gasping at the shock of the cold water,” she says. “You could be upside down in the water. You don’t know which side is up. It lasts about a minute or so.” Jobson says a floatation device also slows hypothermia by giving the wearer an extra layer of insulation from the cold water. Some people complain that floatation devices are bulky and difficult to wear, but Jobson says that’s no longer true. People can buy inflatable PFDs that fit like a vest and can be inflated when someone goes into the water. They also come in a range of colours. “They’re not restrictive anymore,” she says. “Yes, if you’re not used to wearing one it’ll feel strange for awhile, but if you’re looking at the option of a possible fatality involving the water, it’s a small price to pay to have to wear something.” Another myth about floatation devices is that they’re pointless to wear because if someone falls in the water, they’ll die of hypothermia anyway. Jobson says even in the coldest water, someone can survive for up to an hour before they die of hypothermia. People can prevent heat loss in cold water by going in to the Heat Escape Lessening Position (HELP). HELP can increase your survival time by 50 per cent, according to the Canadian Red Cross. To get in the HELP position, the person crosses their arms tightly against their chest and draws their knees up. “Remain calm and still,” the Red Cross guide advises. “Do not try to swim. Unnecessary movement will use energy that your body requires to survive.” The Lifesaving Society is noticing baby boomers making up a larger percentage of drowning victims. Every drowning victim so far this year has been over the age of 50, according to Jobson. She says this might be because of attitudes of an older generation to safety devices. “The baby boomers maybe didn’t have access to water safe education, swim lessons, or that safety culture that younger people have these days,” according to Jobson. “It may be harder to change behaviours because of that.” Drowning victims are also mostly male. Eight out of 10 drowning victims are males, according to the Lifesaving Society. And of all drowning victims, 80 per cent weren’t wearing any kind of floatation device. Floatation devices aren’t a guarantee of survival if you fall in the water, but they’re better than nothing, says Jobson. Boaters should take every precaution to increase the odds of them returning home safely at the end of the day. The Packet

By Shawn Hayward TC Media— Clarenville Two separate drownings saddened communities and families in the Clarenville-Bonavista region in the latter part of July. On the 20th, the start of the recreational cod fishery, a 51-year-old man drowned after falling from his boat off Bonavista. Then, on July 23, a 69-year-old man was found drowned in Northwest Arm after an accident while boating. Neither victim was wearing a floatation device when the accidents happened. Jeanette Jobson, executive director of the Lifesaving Society, Newfoundland and Labrador, says floatation devices save lives and everyone who goes on the water should wear one. “It is very sad and frustrating, to know that people are still on the water and choosing not to wear floatation that might have very well saved their lives,” she says. “All we can do is increase messaging to inform people and make sure they know what happens if they fall unexpectedly into the water, and how they can rescue themselves.” Floatation devices keep people afloat while they experience the “gasp” reflex of falling into cold water, according to Jobson. A lifejacket will turn a person upright, even if they’re unconscious, while a personal floatation device (PFD) will just provide buoyancy. “You’re just gasping at the shock of the cold water,” she says. “You could be upside down in the water. You don’t know which side is up. It lasts about a minute or so.” Jobson says a floatation device also slows hypothermia by giving the wearer an extra layer of insulation from the cold water. Some people complain that floatation devices are bulky and difficult to wear, but Jobson says that’s no longer true. People can buy inflatable PFDs that fit like a vest and can be inflated when someone goes into the water. They also come in a range of colours. “They’re not restrictive anymore,” she says. “Yes, if you’re not used to wearing one it’ll feel strange for awhile, but if you’re looking at the option of a possible fatality involving the water, it’s a small price to pay to have to wear something.” Another myth about floatation devices is that they’re pointless to wear because if someone falls in the water, they’ll die of hypothermia anyway. Jobson says even in the coldest water, someone can survive for up to an hour before they die of hypothermia. People can prevent heat loss in cold water by going in to the Heat Escape Lessening Position (HELP). HELP can increase your survival time by 50 per cent, according to the Canadian Red Cross. To get in the HELP position, the person crosses their arms tightly against their chest and draws their knees up. “Remain calm and still,” the Red Cross guide advises. “Do not try to swim. Unnecessary movement will use energy that your body requires to survive.” The Lifesaving Society is noticing baby boomers making up a larger percentage of drowning victims. Every drowning victim so far this year has been over the age of 50, according to Jobson. She says this might be because of attitudes of an older generation to safety devices. “The baby boomers maybe didn’t have access to water safe education, swim lessons, or that safety culture that younger people have these days,” according to Jobson. “It may be harder to change behaviours because of that.” Drowning victims are also mostly male. Eight out of 10 drowning victims are males, according to the Lifesaving Society. And of all drowning victims, 80 per cent weren’t wearing any kind of floatation device. Floatation devices aren’t a guarantee of survival if you fall in the water, but they’re better than nothing, says Jobson. Boaters should take every precaution to increase the odds of them returning home safely at the end of the day.

Organizations: Lifesaving Society, Red Cross

Geographic location: Clarenville, Bonavista, Northwest Arm Newfoundland and Labrador

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