Adam Hartnet

Adam Hartnet

Life-jackets: only effective if you wear them

Bulkley Valley Search and Rescue attends three or four swift-water related incidents every year and reminds boaters to be cautious.

It’s that time of year again, when boaters are preparing for sunny days on the water and it’s a good time to remember the importance of not just having, but wearing, life-jackets or personal flotation devices (PFD’s).

Bulkley Valley Search and Rescue attends three or four swift-water related incidents every year and weather forecasts indicate boaters need to be especially cautious this summer.

“We are expecting high, cold water through much of the summer,” Barry Finnegan, president of the Bulkley Valley Search and Rescue, said.

“People can’t wait to get out on the water but it’s important to be ready, the boat, safety equipment, everything.”

Air temperature can vary considerably from the water temperature, said Finnegan, and “it can be a real shock to people hitting the water.”

Finnegan recommends people take time to ask “what if” and consider all possibilities before they find themselves in trouble.

According to the website, there were an average of 175 boating related fatalities per year in Canada from 2001-2006.

National Life-jacket Day, last week, provided an opportunity to educate Smithers residents about boating safety in a very visible way.

Clara Reinhardt, first aid and water safety representative for the Red Cross in Prince George, said May 17 was chosen to coincide with the start of the boating season in most of Canada.

“Eighty per cent of people who drown in inland waters aren’t wearing life-jackets,” Reinhardt said.

“It’s important to educate people that life-jackets need to be worn to work.”

All day, May 17, those wearing life-jackets to the Bulkley Valley Regional Pool were given a special admission fee of just $2.

Pool shift supervisor, Gale Jones, and facility programmer, Tamara Gillis also sent life-jacket information, and a contest notice to local schools, encouraging students to wear life-jackets or PFD’s to school, take a photo and send them in by email.

“Once entries are received, they are put into a draw to win a free water safety session and a fun swim,” Jones said.

Another contest is available through the Red Cross website,, until June 30.  Sets of four Masters Survival life-jackets are up for grabs to the winners.

“Life-jackets have come a long way and there’s a life-jacket for everyone,” Finnegan said.

“They are really comfortable now, it just comes down to wearing them.”