On Sunday morning, a unique flag-raising occasion took place right outside Edmonton’s Federal Building to celebrate the first yearly World Drowning Prevention Day that’s now acknowledged by the United Nations.
Present at the ceremony were a number of first responders, MLAs, and the lieutenant governor of Alberta.
Going forward, they will be flying the flag each year on 25th July to mark the devastating and significant effects that drownings have caused on families and societies.
At the same time, this event will help to shed more light on the lifesaving solutions that can prevent drowning-related deaths.
The CEO of the Lifesaving Society Alberta and Northwest Territories, Kelly Carter, explained how the UN acknowledgment has come at the perfect time as the province has been recording a higher number of drownings every year in the past two decades.
Within the last five years alone, Alberta RCMP officers have been called to 95 different incidents where death occurred due to drowning.
John Ferugson, the assistant commissioner, noted that 16 of these incidents took place in the first seven months of this year.
In a recent survey carried out by the Lifesaving Society and the Injury Prevention Centre, it was revealed that for each drowning that occurs, six more non-fatal drownings are recorded simultaneously, which lead to either a hospital admission or an emergency department visit.
The speakers present in the ceremony cited several reasons why drownings have been increasing. They noted that one of these was the latest heatwave that forced the majority of Albertans to head to rivers and lakes to try and cool off.
The limitations emanating from the pandemic, within the past one and a half years, have also contributed significantly.
These caused recreation centers to shut down, and as a result, up to 200,000 Alberta students missed an opportunity to attend swimming lessons.
Speaking on the same, Joe Zatylny, Edmonton Fire Rescue Services Chief, remarked that they had also seen a sharp rise in water rescue calls. Last year, about 104 water rescue incidents took place. And in this year, they’ve already been called to 110 similar incidents between Jan 1 and July 19.
Zatylny urged residents to particularly avoid the North Saskatchewan River, which sometimes presents such turbulent conditions that are risky even for first responders.
First responders asked Albertans to adhere to crucial safety hacks when they’re around the water.
For instance, they should always wear life jackets, avoid swimming alone, avoid indulging in substance abuse like drinking alcohol and taking cannabis. They ought to also have a proper outdoor plan before going to the water, and this includes keeping tabs on the water and weather conditions.