Stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive: lifejacket lending program keeps park visitors safe

Swimming, boating, fishing or just plain splashing around is part of the fun of visiting Ontario Parks and our PARKsmart Lifejacket Lending Program helps keep it that way.

Through the generous support of our sponsors, Mountain Equipment Co-op, Ontario Power Generation (OPG), BOATsmart and The Canadian Red Cross and Swim Guide thousands of park visitors are exposed to water safety messaging and are able to borrow lifejackets every year and stay safe while enjoying our beautiful lakes, waterways, rivers and streams.

“Ontario Parks is grateful for the generous support of our sponsors,” says Scott Elliott, Partnership Development Specialist with Ontario Parks.

“By partnering with our sponsors, we’re able to provide critical lifesaving equipment to thousands of our visitors every year and do our part to help reduce the number of drowning deaths across the province. Water activities are part of the fun of visiting Ontario Parks and through this program we’re able to provide a fun and safe experience for our visitors.”


Program mandate

To ensure the safety of our visitors, lifejackets are available for a small refundable deposit in more than 67 parks. The goal of the lending program is to raise awareness of water safety and reduce the risk of drowning or injury related to water activities.

“Public safety is always on our agenda,” says Mike Martelli, Senior Vice President of Hydro-Thermal Operations at OPG. “Like everyone, Ontario Power Generation wants people to enjoy their time on the waterways but we want them to be safe. We have a large number of dams on these waterways and they can be dangerous. Water elevations and flows can change unexpectedly, which is why we have those areas barriered or fenced off.

“As stewards of these rivers, we are privileged to have our structures located on these waterways and generate electricity from water that everyone benefits from. We take those responsibilities very, very seriously.”


The scary truth about drowning*

• Ontario has the highest rate of drowning deaths in all of Canada with 105 reported deaths between 2010 and 2011.
• 85% of drowning victims are male.
• 95% of drowning victims were not wearing a lifejacket or PFD at the time of their death.
• The fastest growing age group for drowning in Canada is men between 50 and 64.
• Being a strong swimmer is no guarantee of survival.
• Anxiety, waves, clothing and cold water work against you.
• Most drowning victims do not die of hypothermia; they drown in the first few minutes from cold shock.
• Two thirds of people who drown are within 15 metres of safety.


Life jackets are cool

No matter what your age, you can dial up your dude factor and don one of the groovy new colours, designs and models available today, whether you bring your own lifejacket or borrow one from Ontario Parks. With a cool pair of shades and some crazy shorts or a bathing suit to match, even your kids or grandkids might compliment you for once. Well, maybe not but it’s worth a try for everyone’s sake.

Wearing a lifejacket is cool. Drowning is not.

For more tips on water safety and lifejackets, click here.

*Lifesaving Society of Canada