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City rolls out water safety message ahead of Canada Day long weekend

Calgary is poised to see big crowds at river locations like the Harvie Passage this Canada Day weekend, with sun and blue skies in the forecast.

With a strong possibility of river use citywide Carol Henke, Alex Kwan, Alasdair Robertson-More, and Susan Wall shared water safety messages ahead of July long weekend.

Wall, who is an Inspector with the Centre City Operations, Community Standards, Emergency Management & Community Safety, implored people to be safe this weekend, as violations can lead to fines and even mandatory court appearances.

“It’s important to wear a life jacket because it does save your life. No matter the depth of the body of water, a life jacket is important,” she said.

“Most people think they can do without it and they can survive if they get into trouble; that they can actually survive without a lifejacket, but that lifejacket will give you valuable time to get out of the water or be rescued,” Wall said.

Wall said failure to wear a lifejacket can result in a $500 ticket and a date in court.

Alcohol and cannabis consumption

Wall, also suggested brushing up on other rules before making your way down to the river, as there are many other rules to follow like liquor and cannabis consumption by the river.

Alasdair Robertson-More who is the Senior Constable with the Calgary Police Service hammered home this message.

“We’re all here focused on public safety and water safety, so the key message is to be prepared,” Robertson-More said.

“Transporting liquor in an open container, unlawful transportation, so transportation of liquor within easy access of the occupants of the vessel, consuming alcohol and public and transporting cannabis within access to the occupants as well because that’s another big thing that we do see quite regularly.”

He said alcohol, cannabis and being on the water just don’t mix.

In the summer of 2021, the City of Calgary launched a pilot project which allowed people to consume alcohol in parks at select locations across the city.

Some of the rules for drinking at parks include, alcohol consumption being permitted only between 11 a.m. and 9 p.m., drinking in moderation and being in an area designated for alcohol consumption. You can find the full list of rules here.

After the project’s success, the city expanded the locations you could consume alcohol at. If your park is near a river location and you want to see if it is acceptable, you can find the list here.

Proper safety equipment

Alex Kwan, who is the former Aquatics Team Member, and current Community Safety Officer with the Calgary Fire Department demonstrated some of the do’s and do not’s when participating in in-water river activities.

Kwan’s first message was to always check river advisories and water forecasts.

“The water can change very rapidly, so it’s very important you check those water advisories and the river advisories,” Kwan said.

“Make sure you know before you go, all water in Alberta is considered cold water. So for perspective for people, swimming pools are set to 27, 28 degrees Celsius, cold water is anything below 20 degrees Celsius, you can see there’s a very big drop between water that’s outside and inside.”

Kwan next discussed making sure things like river floaties are made for the rapid river waters.

Anything you could blow up with your lungs is better suited for calmer waters such as lakes, Kwan said.

Kwan then went on to show the proper way to put on and use select safety devices.

“So with any PFD (personal flotation device), make sure you zip it up, buckle it up, starting from the bottom, working your way up, and then tighten the properly fitted PFD,” Kwan said.

“When I do a pull, it shouldn’t lift any more than three fingers.”

Alex Kwan demonstrating how to properly put on a PFD. JAMES WINDLER/ FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY.

Kwan encouraged Calgarians to carry a sound device like a whistle in case of emergency and a 15-meter floating line as mandatory equipment alongside the PFD.

Lastly, Kwan suggested having a full boat safety kit, which includes a water bailing kit, a flashlight, and the things mentioned above.

Henke, the Public Information Officer with the Calgary Fire Department, reminded people to enjoy the weekend at select river locations like the Harvie Passage, but to always have safety in mind.

“Remember, you can’t eliminate all of the risks. Where there’s water, there’s a risk, but you can take steps to make it as safe as possible and minimize any accidents,” she said.