National Drowning Prevention Week – July 18 to 24, 2021

July 19, 2021 - Defence Stories


Over 400 Canadians die in preventable water-related incidents annually. Even one drowning is one too many.

Despite a downward trend, drowning is still the third leading cause of death in Canada. Drowning is preventable! Join Lifesaving Society Canada and PSP in bringing awareness to the drowning problem during national drowning prevention week from July 18 to 24, 2021.

Shallow Water Blackout (SWB) is responsible for up to 20% of all drownings. As well it is thought that nearly all drowning or near drowning by advanced or elite swimmers is the result of SWB.

Described for a number of years by the US Naval Center and the training of Navy Seals and Divers, SWB is now coming to the forefront for prevention by a number of groups including Swimming Canada, the Red Cross as well as a number of European and Australian Swimming Associations.

Shallow Water Blackout is an underwater “faint” due to a lack of oxygen to the brain brought on by holding your breath for long periods of time. Without immediate rescue, any swimmer quickly drowns.

Although underwater breath holding has often been viewed in the past as a low-risk childhood activity, the dangers of SWB are becoming more widely recognized more specifically in environment where achievement and pushing boundaries is part of the culture.

“In most near drownings it is estimated that the critical time for a successful rescue or resuscitation occurs within 6 to 8 minutes from the beginning of the event,” says Abby Refausse, PSP Aquatics Coordinator. “With SWB the critical time period for a successful resuscitation appears to be much shorter. A number of case reports of witnessed SWB indicate that a successful resuscitation needs to begin within 2 minute of the event occurring.”

In 2019 PSP updated the aquatics policy stipulating that the practice of hyperventilating and repetitive breath holding shall not be permitted in CAF swimming pools during recreation, military fitness and sport activities.

Aquatic staff will be trained over the summer 2021 to implement the policy and raise awareness on SWB risks.

During the week of July 18 to 24, 2021 PSP will be educating and promoting safety awareness in, on and around the water.

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