Healthy Living in the North

Staying safe on the water this summer

This summer, we want to know what wellness means to you! Share a photo, story, drawing, or video explaining what wellness means to you for a chance to win a grand prize! To inspire you, we’ve featured regular wellness content on the Northern Health Matters blog all summer long!


I was out on our boat last weekend and it was wonderful! I love the sound of the water splashing up against the boat, the warm sun on my face, the wind whipping through my hair, and the smell of fresh, clean air. I love watching the other boats go by; there is such a variety, from fishing boats, ski boats, and pontoon boats, to pedal boats, kayaks, canoes, and stand up boards. No matter what type of boat we come across, the one constant out on the lake is the happiness of those playing in, on, and near the water. The smiles, giggles, and friendly waves as we pass by are infectious and I feel connected to everyone who chooses to be out there.

children wearing lifejackets, fishing off boat

Close by isn’t close enough. Wear your lifejacket in, on, and around the water.

As I was sitting at the back of the boat, I was thinking about this sense of community that comes from a shared love of the fun and adventure of being out on the water. I care about my community and the people who help me feel connected to the joy of living in northern BC, and I believe every person deserves to stay safe every time they are out on the water. Just as seat belts and child safety seats are a key part of keeping us safe on the roads, lifejackets are critical to keeping us safe and keeping the water playtime fun.

Lifejackets save lives. They are like round-trip insurance. When everyone wears a lifejacket and the water fun is done for the day, everyone comes in safely. But, as the Canadian Red Cross highlights, of those who drown every year while boating, over 87% were not wearing a lifejacket when they drowned. Close by isn’t close enough.   Lifejackets or personal flotation devices (PFDs) are the accessory that everyone in the boat, on the water, by the dock, or at the water’s edge has to wear. It is important to wear the right size lifejacket for the right activity, every time, no matter how calm the water or how strong a swimmer you are.

children being pulled on a water tube

Lifejackets are critical to keeping everyone safe and keeping the water playtime fun. 

As we enjoy a summer of wellness, please join me in committing to keeping our communities and water fun safe. Wear your lifejacket or PFD every time you are out enjoying beautiful, natural northern BC.

For more tips on swimming, boating, and water safety, check out:

Denise Foucher

About Denise Foucher

Denise is an injury prevention coordinator with Northern Health’s population health team and is passionate about working towards health and wellness for everyone in Northern B.C. When not at work, Denise can be found out at the lake, walking her dog, planning her next travel adventure, or snuggled in a cozy chair with a good book.

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Preventing injury with IMAGINE grants

This article was co-authored by Mandy Levesque and Denise Foucher.


Students touching jello brain

What would an injury prevention project look like in your community?

With the recent launch of the IMAGINE Community Grants offering funding up to $5,000, the time is right to take action to promote health and improve the well-being of our northern residents.

Injury prevention is one of the health promotion priorities we want to see as a project focus when the grant applications come in (deadline is October 31, 2016) and is definitely one way to ensure northern residents can stay healthy.

What injury prevention project idea would benefit your community?

Did you know that most injuries are preventable? Injuries are not “accidents.” They happen in similar, predictable patterns and as many as 90% of injuries can be prevented.

In B.C., preventable injuries that happen:

  • On the road,
  • From falling,
  • In or near water, and
  • From ATVs

are among the leading causes of death and hospitalization across all age groups. Those numbers are even higher among northern B.C. residents.

So, what does an injury prevention focused IMAGINE grant application actually look like?

Longboarders

IMAGINE in Prince Rupert supported safe longboarding. What types of injury prevention needs are there where you live?

Get inspired by these great ideas:

Water safety:

  • Host teen water safety swim nights at the local pool
  • Organize a Life Jacket Fashion Show

Falls prevention:

  • Get the gear for floor curling in community centres
  • Promote sidewalk safety in slippery winter conditions (e.g., install boxes with sand/grit and scoops) (more on falls prevention from FindingBalanceBC.ca)

Road safety:

  • Conduct a walkability assessment and look to make changes for safety (more on walkability from WalkBC.ca and HASTe)

Mental wellness:

IMAGINE grants support partnerships and build capacity, and create an opportunity to build lasting change in your community. Get your exciting injury prevention project applications in by October 31, 2016.

Injury prevention infographic


IMAGINE Community Grants provide funding to community organizations, service agencies, First Nations bands and organizations, schools, municipalities, regional districts, not-for-profits, and other partners with projects that make northern communities healthier. We are looking for applications that will support our efforts to prevent chronic disease and injury, and improve overall well-being in our communities.

Denise Foucher

About Denise Foucher

Denise is an injury prevention coordinator with Northern Health’s population health team and is passionate about working towards health and wellness for everyone in Northern B.C. When not at work, Denise can be found out at the lake, walking her dog, planning her next travel adventure, or snuggled in a cozy chair with a good book.

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A family’s plan to prevent drowning

Family in a canoe

Paddling is a fun northern activity for so many families in our region! When you are on, in, or near the water, be sure to wear a life-jacket!

July 17-23, 2016 is National Drowning Prevention Week. Parachute Canada has some important information that really frames this topic for me:

Did you know?

  • Children under 18 are at greatest risk of drowning in rivers, lakes, and ponds.
  • Boys are more likely to drown than girls.
  • Drowning can happen in an instant.

I want to encourage everyone to have a safe summer, but I know that talking to parents about safety can be tricky. It only takes media coverage of one injured child to spark all sorts of harsh judgements and criticisms of parents. Sometimes I wonder if what I write about childhood safety will be viewed as a criticism of things parents aren’t doing. I certainly hope not.

You see, I am also a parent of young children. I am not perfect, not even close. We have “close calls” or times when I feel we have come far too close to one of my children experiencing a preventable injury. Every day, I wonder if I am enough for my children. What I can tell you is that when I parent without support or help, I am in fact setting myself up for failure. No single person is meant to be enough or everything for our children. There is a reason we say “it takes a community.” It really does!

When it comes to water safety, the same is true. No single plan is enough.

Water injuries are predictable. There are many ways to reduce the risk of drowning.

  • Children need to swim within arms’ reach. Drowning is often silent. When kids get into trouble, they do not call, wave or signal; all of their energy is used just keeping their head above water. Visit the Lifesaving Society (BC & Yukon Branch) for more information.
  • Actively supervise all children around water. According to the Red Cross, the absence of effective adult supervision is a factor in 75 per cent of deaths by drowning for children under the age of 10. An older sibling is no substitute for parent supervision.
  • Wear a properly fitted life-jacket every single time kids are on a boat. Young children and weak swimmers should wear a life-jacket on, near, or in the water. Want to learn how to properly fit a life-jacket? SmartBoater.ca has you covered with great video tutorials!
  • Learn to swim. Learning to swim and play safely around water is a life skill in Canada. Enrol in swim lessons at the local pool.

This isn’t a menu of options, where you just pick one. These are multiple ways to protect children and prevent drowning that can all be used together. Even though I may teach my child to ask permission to enter the lake every time, there will always be the one time it gets forgotten. I will blink, look away, and get distracted countless times. Relying on many strategies or supports is not a sign of weakness, it is responsible parenting. And it drastically decreases the risks of incident for my children.

So, parents, you do not have to do it alone! Use whatever resources are available to make sure that water play is safe play!

Want a new tool to add to your water safety plan? Enter our Facebook contest for your chance to win a life-jacket!

Amy Da Costa

About Amy Da Costa

Amy Da Costa has worked in Public Health for 12 years. She recently joined the Population Health team as a part-time Regional Nursing Lead for Injury Prevention. Amy lives in Kitimat with her husband and two children. They like to camp, swim, and cook as a family.

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Water play: the safe way

Beach towel; sand; preventable.ca

Show us how you play safe in and around the water this summer and be entered to win a beach towel from Northern Health and preventable.ca. Email your photo of playing in and around the water safely to prevent.injury@northernhealth.ca
(Photo from preventable.ca)

There is nothing like a warm summer day near the water: sun shining, jewel-like reflections and a gentle breeze. These are the makings of great summer memories. That’s just the point: memories. You need to remember your fun in the sun and an injury may stop that from happening. In honour of drowning prevention week, we wanted to remind you about the safe fun you can have around the water!

Before you think that only other swimmers or boaters drown, have a word with yourself. (preventable.ca)

Did you know?

  • Drownings are most likely to occur from May to August, when the warm weather draws us to the water.
  • Nearly 90% of boaters who drown are not wearing, or are not properly wearing, their lifejacket.
  • Two-thirds of drownings in Canada occur in natural bodies of water such as rivers, lakes, and oceans.

Dipping into that pool or lake, or getting out on the boat, canoe or kayak are what make for great summer memories. But, also consider the following:

  • There were 74 drownings in B.C. last year.
  • Drowning is a leading cause of death for children.
  • Near-drownings can result in lengthy hospital stays and can have life-long effects, such as brain damage.
  • 90% of boating drownings can be prevented by wearing a lifejacket or personal floatation device (PFD).
  • 20% of Canadians believe that a child under age six is safe near the water without a lifejacket as long as they aren’t swimming, but almost 80% of children who drowned entered the water unintentionally.

But, there are things you can do! Here are some tips for a safer summer:

  • Boat and swim sober.
  • Everyone wears a lifejacket or PFD.
  • All children under age six wear lifejackets when in, on, or around water.

What do you do to keep play time fun and safe so that you get to build great summer memories?

Denise Foucher

About Denise Foucher

Denise is an injury prevention coordinator with Northern Health’s population health team and is passionate about working towards health and wellness for everyone in Northern B.C. When not at work, Denise can be found out at the lake, walking her dog, planning her next travel adventure, or snuggled in a cozy chair with a good book.

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Preventable’s advice: Have a word with yourself!

English Bay statues wearing lifejackets

Vancouver’s statues at English Bay wearing lifejackets for Preventable’s water safety campaign. (Photo borrowed from preventable.ca)

Last month, Preventable launched their water safety awareness campaign with oversized lifejackets on the laughing statues in Vancouver. When I saw the promotions for this campaign, I wondered where we could have ‘dressed’ local mascots and statues to draw attention to water safety in communities across Northern B.C.?

The media release for this campaign noted that every year in B.C., at least 60 British Columbians drown. Ninety percent of those who drown while boating do not wear a lifejacket or personal floatation device (PFD).

The Preventable campaign, in partnership with the Canadian Red Cross and BC Hydro, took over Vancouver’s much-loved sculpture “A-maze-ing Laughter” at English Bay. They dressed the sculpture in oversized orange lifejackets and set out a sign beside the display, reminding people to have a word with themselves before they think drowning only happens to other people.

I encourage everyone to check out the Preventable website for great information and thought-provoking discussions that might help you start thinking about the right things before you get out on the water: Are you wearing appropriate safety equipment, including approved personal floatation devices (PFDs)? Are you taking appropriate safety precautions while operating a boat? Or are you ignoring obvious risks by thinking that bad things only happen to “other people?”

The goal is to get us all thinking about risks, consequences and choices we make every day at work, home, at play and on the road. Before you jump into that pool or lake, or climb onto the Jet Ski or boat, and think that drowning only happens to other people, have a word with yourself.

What mascots or statues in Northern B.C. do you think would look great with a lifejacket on?

Denise Foucher

About Denise Foucher

Denise is an injury prevention coordinator with Northern Health’s population health team and is passionate about working towards health and wellness for everyone in Northern B.C. When not at work, Denise can be found out at the lake, walking her dog, planning her next travel adventure, or snuggled in a cozy chair with a good book.

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