From 2016 to 2017, swift water rescues on Calgary’s rivers increased 30 per cent. To remind Calgarians of the risks associated with venturing out on the water, the Calgary Fire Department (CFD) has teamed up with the Calgary Police Service (CPS) and Calgary Community Standards to form Partners in Water Safety. The group officially kicked off the water recreation season on Thursday, July 5 with a media event on the Bow River.
“Where there’s water, there’s risk,” said Carol Henke, CFD Public Information Officer. “The importance of lifejackets, even in shallow, slow-moving water, cannot be exaggerated.”
The event featured demonstrations on how to ensure lifejackets fit properly and the types of water crafts that should be used when enjoying Calgary’s waterways.
In addition to wearing lifejackets, Partners in Water Safety are reminding Calgarians that consuming drugs and/or alcohol on Calgary’s waterways is strictly prohibited.
“Alcohol and drugs impair your judgement on the water much like it does on the road,” said Staff Sgt. Shawn Wallace. “With all the unexpected situations people can encounter on the water, impairment from drugs or alcohol will make it that much more difficult to react.”
Police and Bylaw officers will be on Calgary’s rivers throughout the summer to enforce municipal bylaws and provincial statutes.
For Calgary Community Standards Inspector Cheryl Townsend, enforcement is the first step to saving lives.
“Many people don’t realize what’s at stake when they venture out onto the water without mandatory lifejackets,” Townsend said on the need for education around consequences. “A ticket for failing to wear a lifejacket entails a mandatory court appearance and up to $500 in fines.”
Henke stressed the importance to being prepared for anything on the water, advising rafters to be aware of the river’s course and new features like the Harvey Passage and the standing waves near the 10 Street Bridge.
“Accidents can happen even when you do everything right,” added Henke, urging users to monitor conditions and avoid the river altogether during high-flow advisories. “Stay alert, be prepared for water hazards and learn to swim—it can save your life.”