With ‘National Drowning Prevention Week’ around the corner, Vancouver Islanders are urged to be aware of the risks in, on and around the water.

Lifesaving Society Canada says the annual week starts this Sunday, July 18th, wrapping up next Saturday, July 24th — with Sunday, July 25th penned ‘World Drowning Prevention Day’.

According to the society, over 400 people fatally drown each year across the country. It’s the second leading cause of unintentional death for children in Canada; the third for adults.

In particular, Indigenous, northern and new Canadians have a higher mortality burden, the society notes, pointing to statistics that show almost 70 per cent of those who drown never intended to go into the water in the first place.

With this in mind, lifeguards on the Island are gearing up to teach people how to ‘swim to survive’.

In Campbell River, July 18th to 24th activities at Centennial Pool aim to empower swimmers to keep themselves, their family, and their friends safe during water activities.

There will be ongoing contests throughout the week, and on the 23rd — ‘Swim to Survive Day’ — admission to the pool is free. The pool, located on 4th Avenue, is now open to drop-in swimmers, with change rooms and lockers available.

Head lifeguard Dayna Stevenson says it’s a common misconception that drowning is a noticeable, loud, or visible event. She says that oftentimes, it’s not only silent but fast.

“It can take as little as 30 seconds for someone to drown,” Stevenson notes.

And lifeguard Braden Majic says water safety education is ‘extremely important’ for Island communities. But even more so in Campbell River, because Centennial Pool — the city’s only outdoor public pool — was closed last summer due to the pandemic. 

“It has been over a year since most people have accessed swimming lessons or even been to a pool,” he says, adding that ‘National Drowning Prevention Week’ aims to teach and refresh water safety knowledge so that everyone can be safe this summer.