Drowning: what the movies don’t show you

Cue loud, ominous music.

An iceberg ripped into the Titanic, tearing through the metal frame. Alarms sound and hundreds of panicked voices begin to scream. The ship turns up on its nose, its remaining passengers are released into the frigid water, it dips into the ocean.

Unlike the cinematic twist of the Titanic’s story, real life moments don’t have storyboards to follow. There are no blueprints, a final plan, a formula. Neither does drowning. Drowning isn’t extravagant, it can be very simple—as simple as a toddler in a bathtub with just a few centimetres of water in it.

Prevention, for everyone.

A chart depicting the five factors that help prevent drowning
from the Canadian Red Cross

This is why drowning prevention and water safety knowledge is key to keep every individual, but especially family members and loved ones, safe.

The fatality trends across Canada are staggering, and being educated on how to prevent these tragic occurrences can save lives.

The Lifesaving Society’s iconic, “If you’re not within arm’s reach, you’ve gone too far,” slogan is aimed at parents with small children and stresses boating safety for high-risk, middle-aged men— but anyone can be at risk for drowning.

The Canadian Red Cross outlines the five essential layers to help protect and prevent drowning during aquatic activities:

  • Constant, undistracted supervision of children – in and around any water.
  • Fence backyard pools – create adequate barriers so small children don’t go unnoticed.
  • Learn to swim—the basic lifesaving strokes and water safety skills, or more advanced courses like Bronze Medallion.
  • Wear a lifejacket — in boats and deep water, always.
  • Swim in lifeguard areas.

What does drowning actually look like?

“When people are drowning, all of their energy is going into trying to breathe and staying above water,” says Shelley Dalke, the manager of the national swimming and water safety programs for the Canadian Red Cross. “So, there’s absolutely no way they could scream for help and wave their hands around like you see in the movies.”

  With drowning as the second leading cause of unintentional death in children under five and hundreds of Canadians being affected, it’s serious.

The preventative measures are necessary, but so is the ability to recognize some not-so-well-know, common signs of drowning. They are:

by Christine Vezarov
  • Struggling to keep their face above water in effort to breathe—head is low in the water, can be tilted back, and mouth at water level
  • Arms extended to the side pressing down for support
  • Vertical (or almost vertical) body position with no supportive kick
  • Might continue to struggle underwater; might be facing nearest point of safety.
  • Inability to answer to: “Are you okay?”
  • Silence.

While these are common signs of drowning, there is no ABSOLUTE profile of what a drowning person looks like.

Truth be told I’ve watched far more videos of drownings (and near drownings) caught on camera then I’ve cared too, for the simple purpose of training my mind to recognize what a drowning could look like. I’ve seen a teen silently drown, where he simply never managed a breath and slipped below the surface, a young boy who looked like he was playing in the water, doing flips, bobbing at the surface who simply could not get enough air and eventually fell unconscious… It tears at my heart, but I make myself watch. Because recognition is key. 

Is she drowning? A three step approach.   

You may not be a trained lifeguard. You may not want to watch hours of footage of drownings. So how can you recognize (and then get help for) someone is drowning? Here’s our three step approach:

  1. Stay alert in and around the water. Watch and get to know the potential dangers of the body of water you are visiting. Is there a current? Large waves? Is the water cold? Are there rocks, weeds, clams…?
  2. Know the common signs of drowning
  3. Scan individuals in the water. Are they getting a breath? Watch for 10 seconds. Have they taken a proper breath? If not or if they look like they are struggling, ask them, Are you okay? If there is no answer or they say yes, get help!

For every death, the Red Cross predicts an estimated four to five additional near-drowning incidents. Every individual counts. Prevent accidents, stay alert around the water and learn to recognize those in need of help.

Please stay safe this summer!

Article written by Christine Vezarov and Stephanie Rainey

Drowning: what the movies don’t show you was originally published on: The Aqua Life


Swim lessons in Barrhaven!

We’ve arrived in Barrhaven!

Yes, you read that right.

We’re VERY excited to announce the addition of a new location in Barrhaven! Starting in September, we will be offering lessons at the V!va Barrhaven pool.

V!va Barrhaven is a retirement community located at 275 Tartan Dr. The Aqua Life chose to partner with them not only because of their lovely pool, but also their commitment to a positive and inter-generational experience for their residents. Their motto? “Make Today Great.” We couldn’t agree more!

The pool at V!va Barrhaven retirement community.

A few features of the Viva Barrhaven pool:

  • Quiet, brand-new facility
  • Spacious, men & women’s locker room
  • Pool is 30ft long
  • Well-heated, saltwater pool
  • Facility is brightly lit, with lots of natural light
  • Plus, it’s right next to the Ottawa Christian School, Little Scholars Montessori, Educara Montessori Child Care


Stephanie poses with the V!va Barrhaven sign.

Do you have friends or family thinking about swim lessons? Maybe you know a family in Barrhaven? Don’t forget about our referral program: for each family that registers and mentions you as their reference, you will receive a $10 Starbucks gift card.

We’d really appreciate if you could spread the word about the Aqua Life arriving in Barrhaven.

Check here for available class times. And remember, our registration is ongoing. If the lesson time you want is full, check back often. If you don’t see a time slot that works for you, write to us and we will help you co-ordinate lessons. 

See you in Barrhaven!

Swim lessons in Barrhaven! is republished from: The Aqua Life

[Part 2] Why Risk It?: Survive swim season

There’s no ONE reason that people drown. But there are factors that come together to increase your risk of drowning. This blog post is the second of two that breaks down the numbers in the Lifesaving Society’s 2017 Ontario Drowning Report.

Check out part one for the who, when, where and what.

Why? The risk factors.

We’ve learned the first four W’s of water-related fatalities in Ontario. So now the question remains – why do these deaths happen in the first place? Risk factors change depending on what age group you’re looking at.

In kids under 5, the #1 risk factor for drowning is that there was either no supervision OR the person supervising was distracted. Improper supervision contributed to 92% of deaths of kids in this age range. The next highest risk factor, at 63%, was that kids were alone near the water. What’s most sad here isn’t the loss of young life, but the fact that all of these deaths were preventable. This is why it’s recommended that childproof gates be installed around every pool and that parents actively supervise when their kids are swimming.

The next age category that the Lifesaving Society identified is kids aged five to 14. Here, the biggest risk factor was only being in the company of other minors. Even if your child is a confident swimmer, there should always be an adult supervising when kids are in the water.

Above the age of 15, risk factors become common among all age groups. The top risk factor in all adult drowning deaths is not wearing a personal floatation device when relevant. According to the Canadian Red Cross, 87% of drowning deaths that happen while boating occur when the victim either isn’t wearing a PFD or didn’t have it done up properly. In most of these cases, victims never intended to enter the water.

After not wearing a PFD, the next three risk factors for adult drowning deaths were:

  • Alone
  • Alcohol consumption
  • After dark

This is a lot of information – but what can we do with it? By controlling for any or all of these factors, you can actively decrease drowning risk for yourself, your family and your friends.

Is it dusk at the cottage and your husband (who’s had a few beers) wants to go out for a swim? Maybe you can convince him to wait until morning. Or, your 20-something nephew is taking the younger cousins out for a ride on the family’s boat? Why not ensure every person aboard – your nephew included – is wearing a properly fastened PFD?

Knowing these risk factors grants you the power to act against them. Stay safe this summer. And happy swimming!

[Part 2] Why Risk It?: Survive swim season was first seen on: TheAquaLife

Why become a lifeguard?

There have been key moments throughout my life when I’ve thanked my lucky stars I became a lifeguard.

Once when I was 16, I stepped in to teach the father of one of my students. This jovial man explained to me that he could do front crawl and just wanted to work on his breathing. He swam across the shallow end comfortably, so I asked him to swim to the other end. Halfway down the pool he looked up at me, his eyes grew wide and he began to drown. Turns out he’d never swam in the deep end before. I was momentarily confused, but then my training kicked in and I quickly rescued him.

A couple years later, a car turned into oncoming traffic outside the tourist information centre I worked at. I ran with my first aid kit to see if I could help. A middle aged lady had been hit head on in her car and a small crowd gathered around her. I did a quick assessment of the scene and she was obviously in shock. Her eyes were unfocused and she had a deep red welt on her forehead where it hit the steering wheel.

She muttered for someone to help her out of the car, but her legs were twisted at strange angles. They were probably broken and moving her could injure her further. As a bystander moved to help her from the car, I stopped him – she had to stay until the ambulance arrived. In addition to her legs, there was no way to know what internal or spinal injuries she had suffered. I held her hand and spoke to her to keep her conscious until the paramedics arrived.

Bronze Medallion and Bronze Cross prepare you for a fun summer job, but they also do so much more. These courses change you (and your perspective).  When I took my first course at 14, I wanted to look cool sitting on top of the lifeguard tower. That was seriously my motivation. But, just a few years into my career, my training had made me a valuable member of a lifesaving team – in many different scenarios. You might be the one to jump in the water to rescue a victim, but you also have teammates on deck to grab the first aid kit or clear the pool.

While the training can prepare you to be a hero, the most practical thing about lifeguard training is that it makes you an asset rather than a liability in an emergency situation.

I’m very grateful for the skills my training has given me:

  1. A sense of clarity – especially in emergency situations. A common response might be to panic or freeze, while lifeguards are trained to stay calm and act.
  2. Power to assess – Our training teaches us to look beyond the obvious so we can triage patients during an emergency. While our instinct might be to run to the aid of the loudest person, there can be others who need us more urgently.
  3. Ability to treat people – Without proper training it can be easy to further injure a person in trying to help them. Emergency First Aid gives you the skills to know what you CAN do in the moment, but also the knowledge to know what you shouldn’t do.

Whether you go on to be a lifeguard or have zero desire to sit on the lifeguard chair, this training comes in handy at the most surprising times. Bronze Medallion & Bronze Cross, while they’re the first steps to becoming a lifeguard, are so much more.

Do you have your Bronze Medallion or Bronze Cross? We’d love to hear more about how these courses have helped you – in any area of your life! Share in the comments and join us on Facebook!

Why become a lifeguard? was first published on: http://theaqualife.ca/

Learn to Swim Games: Put Your Face In

Will your children practice with you? If not, not to worry. We may just have the trick you need to make swim practice fun! 

No matter the skill, most parents tell us it is pretty tough to motivate their child to focus outside of class or lesson time. ESPECIALLY if it’s a skill that your child is uncomfortable with – like putting their face in the water!

Here we go! In this blog, we’ll show you three games you can play with your child to practice submerging their face.

Games are a great way to learn.  

Helpful hint: Before you play any of these games, check out The No Tears Guide: Help Your Child Put Their Face In.

We also recommend that your child wear goggles, at least when they’re first learning this skill. It takes away some of the mystery, and subsequent discomfort, of putting their face into the water. Goggles also reduce the chance of getting stinging pool water in your eyes, which can be another deterrent for a lot of kids to learn to swim. Once your child is a pro at submersion feel free to take off the goggles and try that. 

1) How Many Fingers Am I Holding Up?

This is a super simple game that you can play anywhere! Have your child put their face in the water – they don’t have to go too far, just enough to get their goggles in the water and see clearly. While they’re under, hold up your fingers to indicate a number. Make sure your fingers are deep enough that they can’t peek at them without actually putting their face in. When they come back up, ask them how many fingers you were showing!

I know this one sounds pretty simple, but it’s a good beginner game and kids really do get a kick out of being able to tell you what they saw while underwater.

2) Turtle Rescue

For this one, you’ll need sinkable toys. We use these really great turtles that come with their own eggs! You can let water in or out to change what level they sit at in the water. AND they come in colour-coded, numbered pairs. (Keep your eyes peeled, they’ll be coming to ALSA’s new online store this summer)

For beginners, play this game on the steps. Sink the toy and have your child reach down and ‘rescue’ it! To start, it doesn’t need to be deep enough for them to have to put their face in. Ease them into it by slowly moving the toy to a deeper part of the steps. Stay close and guide them through the water if they need it.

3) Torpedo

This one uses another one of the Aqua Life’s favourite toys: the Toypedo! You can play on the steps or in the shallow end, depending on your child’s comfort and skill level. Back up a few feet from your child. Throw the torpedo towards them, ensuring that the nose and the body of the toy stay underwater the whole way. Have your child catch it and return it to you the same way.

Alternate between throwing it straight to them or veering just off to the side. This will encourage them to step out of their comfort zone in order to catch the torpedo. Eventually, you can build to missing on purpose so that your child has to dive in order to retrieve it. Stay close by and help them out so they feel safe and supported when they go under to recover their toy.
Are there any games you play to help your child practice their swim skills? Or, do you have any favourite swim toys? Let us know in the comments. And, we’d love for you to join us on Facebook and Twitter. Happy swimming!

The following post Learn to Swim Games: Put Your Face In is available on: The Aqua Life