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More pool watch after drownings

Coquitlam city lifeguards and aquatic supervisors are keeping an extra sharp eye on kids in municipal pools after three B.C. residents drowned this week.

Coquitlam city lifeguards and aquatic supervisors are keeping an extra sharp eye on kids in municipal pools after three B.C. residents drowned this week.

Jason Blood, Coquitlam's aquatics manager, said the recent swimming deaths were a topic of conversation at the weekly program supervisors' meeting and city staff have been reminded to be especially vigilant when young children are in and around the water.

"We have told our staff to be courteous when telling patrons about the situations that can happen, and the rules and the rationale," he said.

Blood said Coquitlam has a policy where adults and guardians must be within arm's reach of their child; lifeguards are trained to alert parents when their young one is too far away.

"In the summer especially, it's good advice to keep your children close and under direct supervision," he said, adding swimming lessons for infants start as young as six months in Coquitlam. "There's valuable water safety education in those sessions for children and parents about how to stay safe."

Blood also recommends parents get lifeguards to help strap life jackets on kids so they fit correctly. Life jackets are available in all city pools and in all sizes - at no cost.

On Sunday, 20-month-old Ivan Yousif died when he accidentally slipped into a Surrey residential pool; his grandmother, Warina Nissan, 51, tried to save him but she also drowned and died from her injuries on Monday afternoon.

That night, a 32-year-old Oliver woman drowned after falling off a paddle boat on Gallagher Lake, north of Oliver (alcohol and prescription drugs were factors in her death, police say).

And on Tuesday, a two-year-old Surrey girl was found floating unconscious in her family's backyard pool. She was pulled out by a family friend who performed CPR; the toddler survived.

The drownings and near-drowning come the same week the BC Coroners' Service released a five-year study showing nearly 30% of pool-related fatalities involved toddlers and preschoolers, ages one to four. All the drownings happened at residential pools and in the Metro Vancouver and Fraser Valley regions.

The drownings also come a week before the BC/Yukon Lifesaving Society launches the annual National Drowning Prevention Week, July 21 to 29 (the third week of July is typically when people are on vacation and there's a higher risk for swimming problems).

According to the society's statistics, between 400 and 500 Canadians die annually in water-related incidents, and many of them in unsupervised settings.

Wendy Schultenkamper, the society's education director, said adults with kids need to be cautious and not be distracted. "We have heard so many times when a parent says, 'I just took my eyes off for a second to run in and get the phone' and something has happened," she said. "A toddler can drowned in 10 to 30 seconds."

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Water safety tips from the Canadian Red Cross:

How to avoid water-related injuries:

Ensure children are supervised; whether at home or on vacation. Adult supervision is the best protection for children, even for those who can swim.

Make sure your backyard pool is fully fenced with a self-closing, self-latching gate.

When not using your home pool, clear all toys out of the water and away from the edge.

Ensure you have emergency equipment including a first aid kit and a phone in the immediate pool area.

When boating, have a lifejacket on and fastened for everyone on board.

Don't consume alcohol before or during swimming or boating activities.

Be cautious about swimming in currents/

Get trained through swimming and water safety lessons; get your Pleasure Craft Operator Card if you operate a boat; know how to respond in an emergency by taking first aid lessons.

Lifejacket safety checklist:

Is it Canadian-approved?

Will it support the person it was made for?

Are all the snaps, belts, ties, tapes and/or zippers on your lifejacket or PFD in good condition?

Is it easy to put on and take off?

Can you move your arms freely when wearing it?

Does it let you bend at the waist?

Can you see the ground at your feet and walk over obstacles easily?

Does it keep your head above water?

Relax in the water face down. Does your lifejacket roll you to a face-up position?

Can you swim and manoeuvre easily in the water?

Have you attached a whistle to your flotation device?

Coquitlam and Port Coquitlam city staff this month are asking for residents' views on outdoor pools.

From July 11 to the August long weekend, Coquitlam staff will visit pools and spray parks - with tablets in hand - to gain feedback about the outdoor aquatic use.

And in PoCo, the city is seeking its information via an online survey ( until July 27.

The polling is a result of a joint study that started this spring on the future for outdoor pools in the Tri-Cities; the results are expected to be presented to city councils in September before budget deliberations begin.

Coquitlam launched the review after deciding to temporary close Rochester Pool, a 44-year-old tank in Maillardville that's primarily used by children and families and has been failing for years.

According to a city report, it would cost $170,000 to repair the 25-yard concrete basin or $4 million to rebuild it. Another option is to decommission the pool and/or re-use the pool and change rooms for other recreational uses.

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