Whitehorse Daily Star

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Photo by Vince Fedoroff

LIFE JACKET LOANERS – The life jacket loaner station at Long Lake on Thursday. There will be an unveiling of the station, complete with life jackets, today at 3 p.m.

Life jacket loaner station program starting at Long Lake

A life jacket loaner station program is starting in the Whitehorse area at Long Lake, just northwest of the city.

By Morris Prokop on July 22, 2022

A life jacket loaner station program is starting in the Whitehorse area at Long Lake, just northwest of the city.

According to a Long Lake swimmer who didn’t want their name used, the life jacket station is a welcome development.

“Many parents rely on inflatable cuffs for their kids (which I noticed at Long Lake) which are not safe. Good that the City is looking at increasing water safety here, as it is a very popular swimming site.”

Karen Zaidan, aquatics supervisor and national trainer with the Lifesaving Society for Yukon region explains how the program came about.

“Prior to living here in the Yukon, I lived in the Northwest Territories and was a part of the Northwest Territories life-saving branch and the program is actually well-established in Alberta and the Northwest Territories. They have over 41 stations across the province and territory.

“I guess this is three years of programming out at Long Lake and being down there during the hot busy days, you can see how many people actually come down and use the lake – not only Long Lake, but Chadburn and Schwatka. There’s a lot of safe water behaviours, but there’s also a lot of unsafe water behaviours ... knowing as well there’s going to be the installation of docks and you’re inviting a little more dangerous activity into deep water. If people can’t swim, then that’s a problem but if they just also want to hop in a boat or try something out with the safety of having a PFD (Personal Floatation Device), then why not?” related Zaidan.

“So I made ... a bid to the city saying ‘hey, why don’t we try this program out at Long Lake where we do already have a presence and where we can see and evaluate, for our community, how we can educate our community members about being safe in, around and on the water.’ It is successful in a lot of the other communities, so we just kind of wanted to give it a try and at the end of the day, if it saves a life, then that’s amazing. We did a good job.”

Zaidan explains why the program was implemented.

“It’s an opportunity to offer equipment for those that might not be able to afford it for the use during the day.

“It also gives us an opportunity to educate as well ... I have 55 lifeguards that work for me at the pool but one per cent of drownings happen in supervised areas, so putting a life jacket loaner station is just in the hopes of decreasing what potentially could be devastating for our community.”

Zaidan said there has been a delay getting the program started.

“Our project got delayed due to another department – I don’t want to lay the blame on anyone – so it’s just being installed right now. The sign is going to go up hopefully this week and life jackets will be out there.

“It’s National Drowning Prevention Week. We have just started our programming so at least now we can add it to our promo as well and just water awareness,” she added.

As for how many life jackets they will have on hand, “We’ll have at least two or three in each of the sizes,” said Zaidan.

“We won’t have infant sizes but there are 20-30, 30-60, 60-90 and then the adults, so there’ll be about 12-15 life jackets out there at a time.

“But long-term, it would be really great to get community businesses involved in terms of potentially donating life jackets, or even residents. The first goal is to get it erected, get it used, get people knowing that it’s there ... I have a five-year plan for it, so if it’s well-received and well-used, and we think it’s worthwhile, then I would look at using it at our other highly-populated areas like Chadburn, Schwatka maybe. Schwatka would be a good one because of the boating. We have lots of people heading out on boats.”

Zaiden describes how the life jacket loaner program works.

“It’s an honour system. It’s out there. Hopefully your size will be there. Use it while you need it and when you’re done with it, return it, so that there will be a life jacket there for someone else to use as well.”

Zaidan said there will be events at Long Lake going on today and Saturday from 3 to 7 p.m.

“For National Drowning Prevention Week, we’re bringing down our inflatable pieces to the lake and we’re going to be out there celebrating the week.”

“You’ll have to pass a swim test but we will have life jackets down (there) to play and get fit ... anybody can come down and ask any water awareness questions they may have. We’ll be running games. We’ll be celebrating people that are recreating safely and smartly.”

“There are certain times of the week that there are trained lifeguards down there at the water doing water surveillance, so if anyone wants to get comfortable with lake swimming or get an introduction for their kids into what it means to swim out in open water versus a pool – it is quite different. Our goal is to bring more awareness and talk water safety,” she added.

Zaidan said the program is already well-received.

“I’ve had a few people – because the email went out and then it didn’t happen people were like ‘This is amazing. Where can I find them?’ And then of course it’s me saying ‘Be patient. It’s coming.’ So I do know that there are already people looking forward to it and also seeking us out when we are down there, so it’s kind of nice to see that.”

Zaiden said having other life jacket stations around Whitehorse in the near future is a distinct possibility.

“We’ll definitely do a proper evaluation of this one at Long Lake before we move forward with any other one but I would give it a two, three year evaluation and then we’ll see where we go from there.”

You can also bring your life jacket to the CGC pool and have it checked out to see if it’s still good.

“If anyone wanted to bring anything to the pool and have any of the lifeguards who are water safety instructors – we totally know what we’re looking for, for sure,” said Zaidan.

“We can do a fit test as well. We often see kids bobbing around in the life jacket. There’s enough space between the shoulders and the head to fit another ball through there. Proper fit is something that is a good educational piece, too.”

Zaidan added “Summer’s so short and we all go outside and even though we’re year-round in a pool, we take our expertise from that pool and we transfer it out into the waterfront and that’s been a real big goal of mine, a personal goal of mine over the last five years. And over the last four years we’ve actually made 28 new waterfront lifeguards ... to guard a pool is a different certification than it would be to guard a lake or a river or tidal pools. So we’re moving in a really wonderful direction ... of those little steps to making sure that our communities are safe.”

Comments (1)

Up 5 Down 0

Thomas Brewer on Jul 22, 2022 at 2:49 pm

Great idea, however these are going to 'disappear' in the first week.

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