Partners in Water Safety remind citizens of risks on Calgary’s waterways ahead of long weekend
CALGARY - In 2016, the Calgary Fire Department (CFD) performed 62 rescues on Calgary’s waterways. Swift water rescues, in particular, increased 25 per cent from 2015. To remind Calgarians of the risks associated with venturing out on the water, CFD has teamed up with the Calgary Police Service (CPS) and Community Standards to form Partners in Water Safety. The group officially kicked off the water recreation season on Thursday, May 18 with a media event on the Bow River.
“Where there’s water, there’s risk,” said Acting Fire Chief Ken Uzeloc, with Junior Fire Chief Oliver Hamilton by his side. “The importance of life jackets, even in shallow, slow-moving water, cannot be exaggerated.”
The event featured demonstrations on how to ensure life jackets fit properly and the types of equipment rafters should include in their safety kits. As the safety ambassador for children, the Junior Fire Chief shared messaging around what kids should do in an emergency on the water. Members of the media were invited to board both the CFD and CPS watercraft for a closer look at nearby hazards on the river.
In addition to wearing life jackets, Partners in Water Safety urges water users to avoid alcohol and other unsafe behaviours on waterways.
“Alcohol impairs your judgement on the water much like it does on the road,” said Staff Sergeant Clare Smart. “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 Peace Officers will be monitoring Calgary’s rivers throughout the summer to enforce municipal bylaws and provincial statutes. Anyone engaging in unsafe or disrespectful behaviour on the water will be subject to fines—another reason to comply.
For Community Standards Inspector Susan Wall, enforcement is the first step to saving lives.
“Many people don’t realize what is at stake when they venture out onto the water without mandatory life jackets,” Wall said on the need for education around consequences. “A ticket for failing to wear a life jacket entails a mandatory court appearance and up to $500 in fines.”
Chief Uzeloc stressed the importance of 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 wave near the 10 Street Bridge.
“Accidents can happen even when you do everything right,” Uzeloc said, 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.”