From the Centre: Safety is key when spending time in the water

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

Road trip time! Yes, that was why there was a blizzard in Alberta; we were visiting children and new grandchildren through the central part of the province over Easter and it seems there is inclement weather whenever we head east. There were some really nice conditions, as well, so we won’t dwell on the snow, but it sure was nice to get back to the green of our valley.

My previous column talked about the laid back pace of a small town so we got the firsthand opportunity to offset that point of view with the pace of Alberta’s capital. We met one set of kids at a food court in a south Edmonton mall, which, incidentally, I hung around a bit as a younger man. Not the same place; while many stores were the same, the sheer volume of people was astounding — there were probably 500 people in just the eating area along with the equal amount of din that a group that size brings. This didn’t cover the hordes that were wandering about the mall at 1:30 on a Thursday afternoon. For me, I was pretty much done when we went into the Lego Store (yes, a store that just sells Lego) and the Apple Store and equated the experience to riding a commuter train in Japan at rush hour.

On the training and life skill side, I was glad to see grandkids introduced to their respective towns’ swimming pools at an early age. One had actually taken their first Starfish lesson set and the search was on for a proper personal flotation device (PFD) as the parents are into fishing and boating, much like we do around here (only better).

You can get PFDs or lifejackets. 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. The standard lifejacket is keyhole style and comes in two sizes — one for people who weigh over 40 kilograms (90 pounds), and one for people who weigh less than 40 kilograms — and must be orange, yellow or red, and have a whistle attached. Canadian approved PFDs are intended to keep you afloat in the water and were designed for use in recreational boating and 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. You choose, just use.

At pools, we are also trained in victim recognition, to spot high risk or weaker swimmers and have certain classifications:

•Boppers are the ones who bounce up and down to keep their nose and mouth out of the water — OK until you hit the slope of the pool and gravity bounces you deeper.

•Floppers are toddlers that fall in shallow water but don’t have the coordination to pick themselves back up. (Small children have a different centre of gravity — their heads are heavier than their bodies and they are unable to raise themselves up. As we age that weight transfers — for instance my midsection is significantly heavier than my head but I am working on it.)

•Hangers are the non-swimmers that move along hanging on the edge — OK until you let go and are in over your head.

•Breath-holders are the ones that swim long distances under water or try to talk underwater or hold their breath for long periods placing themselves at risk of drowning. These are all part of the reasons children six and under must be within arms reach of an adult.

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

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