Preventable’s newest message about water safety is on the ball this summer.
“Before you think only other swimmers drown, have a word with yourself,” was displayed on a 10-foot by 10-foot beach ball at Gyro Beach yesterday.
The warning is part of an initiative by Preventable, the Canadian Red Cross and B.C. Hydro, to get British Columbians to start thinking safety when it comes to water.
“We needed a new message. After last year’s spike in drownings, we thought we really need to focus on behavioural and attitude changes. We thought going with a more introspective approach might change people’s attitudes and behaviours in the water,” said Derek Mahoney, spokesperson for Preventable.
Last year, a record of 50 drownings happened in B.C. as of the first week of August.
According to Vital Statistics, there are at least 60 deaths each year in B.C. due to drowning and water-transport related incidents and submersions. Additionally, between 2003 and 2007 there was an average of over 244 hospitalizations from drowning across B.C.
Mahoney said that wearing a lifejacket is the first and most important message that Preventable is trying to spread this year.
“Ninety per cent of drowning deaths while boating are a result of not wearing a lifejacket or PFD.”
The second message is that alcohol shouldn’t be consumed around water.
“Alcohol and water related activities do not mix. Forty per cent of all drownings have alcohol involved,” Mahoney said.
“We live in arguably the most beautiful spot in the world with a ton of water activities to partake in. We want to encourage people to be out enjoying our natural environment, but drink at home.”
Mahoney directed the third message at parents: “Watch your children in the water at all times.”
A number of beach towels laid out across Gyro Beach spread the same message as the beach ball.
The beach ball was only in Kelowna for one day in July; however, the towels will be sticking around a bit longer.
“The towels are part of our guerilla marketing campaign, so they’re going to be laid out by City of Kelowna lifeguards at the city park beach and Peachland beach throughout July and August,” said Mahoney.
“They’re just left out there, unattended. As people are enjoying the beach, they’ll take a look and our message will hopefully be something that they absorb while they’re enjoying the water. We hope they’ll think about what they can do to make their summers around the water safer.”
A similar campaign last year included only the beach towels and a small kit of personal belongings. The idea was to make the public stop and think about someone who may have gone swimming and not come back.
“It was mission accomplished from those who read it. It hit you in your gut and there was a shock factor to the message. Obviously the stats last year were far higher than we would like: One drowning is too many for us. In that sense, we’re ramping up the campaign across more beaches this year. We hope to see a significant decrease this year.”