First-ever report card on water safety knowledge released today

    Ontarians earn a "C" average, room for improvement

    TORONTO, June 23 /CNW/ - A resounding 81 per cent of Ontarians plan to
participate in water-based activities this summer. Yet, according to a report
card released today by the Lifesaving Society, Ontario residents are not
getting straight "A"s when it comes to knowing how to keep children safe at
the lake, beach or pool. The first-ever report card on water safety and
drowning prevention was developed from results of a June 2009 Angus Reid
Strategies poll that was commissioned by the Lifesaving Society, a charitable
organization working to prevent drowning.
    Overall, the Lifesaving Society gives a "C" grade to Ontarians for having
an average of 60 per cent in water safety knowledge. But the Lifesaving
Society says an "A+" is needed to ensure we are vigilant in preventing
drowning deaths.
    "When it comes to water safety and drowning prevention knowledge, Ontario
scores really well on some issues," says Barbara Byers, Public Education
Director for the Lifesaving Society. "However, the results of this report card
show that there is still a lot that can be learned to keep children safe in
and around water."

    Report card on water safety and drowning prevention:
    Ontario adults who:                                       Score    Grade
    Think an adult should be within 2 feet of a child under
     the age of five when near water                           43%       F
    Think that water wings, arm floaties and inflatable
     rings or tubes are effective flotation devices for
     young children                                            33%       F
    Believe that when someone is drowning they will wave
     their arms around, make lots of noise and splash water    32%       F
    Understand that drowning is often silent                   62%       C
    Enrolled their child (children) in formal
     swimming lessons                                          80%       A
    Believe that a lifejacket will keep a child under the
     age of five safe in the water                             85%       A
    Think that the best method for restricting children's
     access to a backyard pool is a four-sided fence           82%       A
    The grades are based on the proportion of respondents who agree or
    disagree with a specific action that is deemed in the best interest of
    safety. A higher incidence of respondents who agree with a safe action
    leads to a better grade.

    Stay 'within arms' reach'

    According to the Society, one of Ontario's worst grades on the report
card is an "F," for not knowing how close an adult should be to a child under
the age of five when they're in or near the water. In fact, only 43 per cent
of Ontarians know that they should be within two feet of a child five or under
when near water.
    Byers says if you're not 'within arms' reach' of your child, you've gone
too far. "The reality is that drowning can happen very quickly, in as little
as 10 seconds. Yet, the report card shows that more than half of respondents
would not be close enough to save a young child if they were drowning.
Anything further away than two feet is not 'within arms' reach' and it is
simply not safe."

    Drowning is silent

    Another water safety area where Ontarians need improvement is in
recognizing the signs of drowning. Only 62 per cent of residents realize that
drowning is often silent; 32 per cent believe drowning victims will wave their
arms around, make lots of noise and splash water.
    Drowning can take place in as little as 10 seconds and is a silent
killer. It can occur in just inches of water, such as a bathtub or wading
pool. The Lifesaving Society stresses that parents never leave their children
alone near water because they may not hear a child who is in the process of

    Lifejackets and swimming lessons save lives

    Ontario residents did earn an "A" grade as 85 per cent of respondents
choose a lifejacket as an effective device to keep a young child safe in the
water. However, the Lifesaving Society says that despite this knowledge, still
one in three (33 per cent) deemed water wings, arm floaties and inflatable
rings or tubes as effective flotation devices for young children, which they
are not.
    "A lifejacket is absolutely the best and only flotation device that
should be used to keep young children safe when they are in or around water.
The lifejacket will bring the child into the upright position should they fall
into water face first whereas water wings or inflatable rings or tubes will
not," says Byers. "And, it's important to stress that everyone should wear a
lifejacket when they are boating or waterskiing."
    The Lifesaving Society is pleased to see that 80 per cent of Ontario
parents say that their children have participated in swimming lessons, earning
them another "A". "We're encouraged to see an increase in enrollment," says
Byers. That's up from approximately 40 per cent nine years ago (according to a
study conducted by the Society in 2000). Byers adds that the significant rise
likely reflects the fact that more than 160,000 children have completed the
Society's 'Swim to Survive' program in the past three years.
    "We have made tremendous strides in the past several years with 'Swim to
Survive,' but it's important to remember that drowning remains one of the
leading causes of death among children, and our efforts to educate and teach
need to continue until that is no longer the case. Our goal is to teach 'Swim
to Survive' to every child before he/she graduates elementary school."

    Restricting children's access to a backyard pool

    Eighty-two (82) per cent say a four-sided fence is the best way to
restrict access to a backyard pool. According to Byers, she is delighted to
see such a high grade among Ontarians for knowing how to best secure a
backyard pool.
    "Every municipality has their own bylaw on fencing pools, and all of
them, except Toronto, require that backyard pools be fenced on three sides,
with the fourth side being the house. However, the reality is that most
toddlers drown in backyard pools, and most children who drown in backyard
pools gain access from the house. The Lifesaving Society, along with most
Ontarians, agrees with the City of Toronto's approach. Toronto is at the
forefront, and has the only bylaw in North America which requires that all
four sides of a pool to be fenced."
    In Canada, drowning is the second leading cause of preventable death for
children under 10 years of age. According to the 2009 Ontario Drowning Report
Update, released by the Lifesaving Society, nearly 500 Canadians die each year
in water-related incidents. The number of water-related deaths in Ontario is
on the rise. In Ontario in 2005(*), there were 164 deaths, or 33 per cent of the
national total. There were 132 drowning deaths in Ontario in 2004, and 128 in

    About the survey

    From June 4 to June 8, 2009, Angus Reid Strategies conducted an online
survey among a randomly selected, representative sample of 801 adult
Ontarians. The margin of error for the total sample is +/- 3.46%, 19 times out
of 20. The results have been statistically weighted according to Statistics
Canada's most current education, age, gender and region Census data to ensure
a representative sample of the entire adult population of Canada.
Discrepancies in or between totals are due to rounding.

    About the 2009 Drowning Report Update

    The Drowning Report information is sourced from the Lifesaving Society
and the Chief Coroner's Office, Ontario Ministry of the Solicitor General.
(*)2009 results showcase 2005 figures, which is the most recent year for which
data is available.

    About The Lifesaving Society

    The Lifesaving Society, Canada's lifeguarding experts, is a charitable
organization working to prevent drowning and water-related injury through its
training programs, Water Smart(R) public education and safety management
services. Each year in Canada, more than half a million people participate in
the Society's swim, lifesaving, lifeguarding and leadership courses. For more
information, please visit

    NOTE TO ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Interview and photo opportunities available
Tuesday, June 23, 2009 at the pool at Beverley Junior Public School, 64
Baldwin St., Toronto. Children, lifeguards and parents from 10 a.m. to noon;
Barbara Byers, The Lifesaving Society, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

    /NOTE TO PHOTO EDITORS: A photo accompanying this release is available on
    the CNW Photo Network and archived at
    Additional archived images are also available on the CNW Photo Archive
    website at Images are free to accredited
    members of the media/

For further information:

For further information: To schedule an interview, or for more
information including the full poll results, please contact: Karen Krugel,
PraxisPR, (905) 949-8255 ext. 233, (416) 559-9200 (cell),;
Lauren Grant, PraxisPR, (905) 949-8255 ext. 227, (416) 627-9416 (cell),; Barbara Byers, The Lifesaving Society, (416) 490-8844,
(416) 727-5636 (cell),

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