As Summer Temperatures Rise, So Does the Risk of Drowning


Lifesaving Society Announces New Survival Swimming Program Aimed at Tweens/Teens

TORONTO, June 21, 2012 /CNW/ - With warmer than normal temperatures and humidity expected throughout the country this summer, Canadians will be flocking to pools, rivers and lakes to stay cool, increasing the risk of drownings, says the Lifesaving Society. A new survival swimming program, called Swim to Survive+™, teaches pre-teens how to survive an unexpected fall into deep water while wearing clothes, and teaches the basic skills to help a friend in deep water.

According to Barbara Byers, Public Education Director for the Lifesaving Society, there has been an increase in the number of drownings among teens (13 to 17 years old). "There were 26 teen drownings in 2011. That's an 18 per cent increase from 22 teen drownings in 2010," says Byers. "Some of these incidents occurred when one person was trying to help save another by jumping in the water after them and putting their own life at risk."

"Adolescents are more likely to be enjoying water-related activities with a group of friends and without adult supervision," says Byers. "By targeting kids at this age, we hope to equip them with the skills and judgment they need to keep themselves and their friends safe well into adulthood."

The final statistics on fatal drownings for 2010 to 2011 are not yet available from provincial and territorial chief coroners and medical examiners; however, interim data collected by the Lifesaving Society using media and Internet reports indicates that drownings in Canada decreased by 15 per cent from 409 in 2010 to 347 in 2011.

"The good news is that there was a decrease in the number of drownings among young children, especially children under the age of five (from 23 in 2010 to 10 in 2011)," says Byers. "However, this year from January 1st through June 18th there have already been 107 total drownings reported. We hope to see an overall decrease across all age groups."

While basic swimming skills are critical to prevent drowning, the Society estimates that about half of Canadian children never take traditional swimming lessons. To address this, the Society continues to expand its highly successful "Swim to Survive" program, which teaches the essentials needed to survive an unexpected fall into deep water. Grade 3 students are taught to ROLL into deep water, TREAD water for one minute and SWIM 50 metres. Swim to Survive programs are available across Canada. Over 400,000 children across the country have participated in the program to date.

Based on the data available and the Chief Coroner's Drowning Review, there was a recommendation for advanced programs to be developed to improve water safety skills of children before completing elementary school. Consequently, the new Swim to Survive+™ program came to fruition.

The new Swim to Survive+™ program, geared toward presenting more realistic situations for children in Grade 7, builds on the skills taught in the original Swim to Survive program. The + (plus) in the new program means that students are taught to ROLL, TREAD and SWIM WITH CLOTHES ON.

In addition, the new program also teaches kids how to assist a friend who may have accidentally fallen into deep water. "It's natural to want to jump in after your friend and try to save them," continues Byers. "But, you are putting both yourself and your friend at greater risk of drowning." Instead, Byers suggests these three key skills: TALK, THROW and REACH.

When a friend or family member unexpectedly falls into deep water, Swim to Survive+™ teaches students to remain on the deck or boat, call for help - either 911 or get assistance from an adult - talk loudly and encourage the person to kick to safety. If the person requires further assistance, students are taught to throw a buoyant aid to assist them while continuing to verbally encourage them to continue kicking. Lastly, if students must reach to assist the person, they are taught to be sure to remain on the deck/dock/boat, lower their body, or lie down and then reach out with an aid (like a pool noodle or a lifejacket) to their partner, all while continuing to verbally encourage the person to kick to safety.

In addition to the more rigorous fitness component with the ROLL TREAD and SWIM while wearing clothes, the new program also requires students to complete a fitness swim that helps build stamina. The participants are trained to swim four intervals of 10 to 15 metres each on their front or back, with 15 to 30 second rests and a pulse check at each interval. "This added fitness test really helps students become more aware of their own fitness and endurance levels and limitations," says Byers.

To date, more than 1,000 Ontario children have participated in the Swim to Survive+™ pilot program. With the financial assistance of the Stephanie Gaetz KEEPSAFE Foundation, founding sponsor of Swim to Survive, the Society was able to develop and pilot the new Swim to Survive+™ program across Ontario. The Society is prepared to implement the new program and is hoping for a new partner to assist with the operational funding.

About Swim to Survive

The Swim to Survive program launched in 2005. Swim to Survive teaches children three basic skills in sequence: roll into deep water; tread water for one minute; and swim 50 metres (statistics show that most people who drown are less than 15 metres from shore or safety). It is not meant as a replacement for standard swimming lessons; however the program is an important first step to being safe around water and could make the difference between life and death when immersion in water is sudden and unexpected. Educational resources include a video on YouTube in eight different languages.

The Stephanie Gaetz Keepsafe Foundation is a charitable foundation founded by Barbara Underhill and Rick Gaetz. The Foundation promotes safety education and injury prevention among children. The Stephanie Gaetz Keepsafe Foundation is the founding sponsor of the Swim to Survive program and the new Swim to Survive+™ program.

About the Lifesaving Society

The Lifesaving Society is a full-service provider of programs, products and services designed to prevent drowning. We save lives and prevent water-related injury through our training programs, Water Smart® public education, drowning prevention research, aquatic safety management and lifesaving sport. Each year in Canada, more than 800,000 Canadians participate in the Society's swimming, lifesaving, lifeguard, first aid and leadership programs. For more information, please visit

Video with caption: "VNR: The Lifesaving Society Announces New Survival Swimming Program, called Swim to Survive+, aimed at tweens". Video available at:

Video with caption: "B-roll: The Lifesaving Society Announces New Survival Swimming Program, called Swim to Survive+, aimed at tweens". Video available at:

Image with caption: "Grade 7 students from Winchester Public School learn how to roll, tread and swim in water with their clothes on as part of the Lifesaving Society's new Swim to Survive+ program. (CNW Group/Lifesaving Society)". Image available at:

Image with caption: "Grade 7 students from Winchester Public School demonstrate how to best help a friend, without risking their own life. (CNW Group/Lifesaving Society)". Image available at:

PDF available at:

SOURCE Lifesaving Society

For further information:

To schedule an interview, or for more information, please contact: 

Andrea Burmaster
905-949-8255 ext. 231
416-453-2218 (cell)

Danielle D'Agostino
905-949-8255 ext. 233
416-525-6725 (cell)

Barbara Byers
The Lifesaving Society
416-727-5636 (cell)

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