From the Centre: Lifejackets and PFDs are key to summer safety

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I know it’s a couple weeks ago, but did you get a chance to partake in any Creston Valley Blossom Festival activities? Perhaps you saw the parade where we had a batch of our intrepid lifeguards providing escort to the giant lifejacket known as Buckles. Maybe you even saw in the back of the Regional District of Central Kootenay truck, we had our very own mermaid (not actually ours as no one “owns” a mermaid) lounging in a wading pool to keep her cool and damp. Similar to how China retains ownership of all the giant pandas around the world, which are then selectively loaned to other countries at a fee of about a million dollars a year per pair, we were able to briefly secure a mermaid through intense negotiations and swimming through a few hoops. She is now safely back wherever it is mermaids go: rescuing or abducting sailors. I can’t remember which.

It was also a coup to get Buckles, the Red Cross water safety mascot, who regularly travels across Canada promoting — you guessed it — water safety. Driven home by some of the tragic news reports we have heard these past weeks, the importance of wearing a personal flotation device (PFD) can’t be stressed enough. There are differences between a lifejacket and a PFD, however. A Canadian approved standard lifejacket, when worn properly, is designed to turn an unconscious person from face down to face up in the water, allowing them to breathe. They are typically a keyhole design, come in two sizes and have to be red, yellow or orange with a whistle attached.

A Canadian approved PFD is designed to keep you afloat in the water and are designed for use in recreational boating. They are generally smaller, less bulky and more comfortable than lifejackets. They have less flotation than lifejackets, and have limited turning capacity, but are available in a variety of styles and colours. Sometimes you have to look twice at someone to see that they are even wearing one! There are even inflatable PFDs, which are a type of personal flotation device that either automatically inflates when immersed in water or is inflated by the wearer using either an oral or manual inflation device. A key point to remember is that you must get the right size specifically for children, and they must be buckled in to it properly, so if they fall into the water, they don’t squirt out of the PFD like a watermelon seed between your fingers.

Once you have the proper device, take it for a spin. Head out (or take the kids) into a safe supervised patch of water and try it out to see how it behaves and how they can swim or paddle in it. If you are like me and the lake has to be body temperature before you get in, we have a pool for you! Bring it to the Creston and District Community Complex and let the kids get familiar with how the world changes when you can’t touch bottom and you have to rely on that red, yellow or orange device for support. Like that rented tuxedo, you also have to take care of it by making sure it is rinsed or washed according to manufacturer’s instructions, dried properly so mushrooms aren’t growing on it and stored properly in the boat where the dog can’t sleep or gnaw on it. They quite possibly could save a life.

Neil Ostafichuk is the recreation supervisor at the Creston and District Community Complex.