Water safety urged during training session
Thursday morning was supposed to be just another regular weekly training session for Orillia’s lifeguards.
Then Peter Quigley noticed something out of the corner of his eye.
“We were setting up for our usual situations and I noticed a drowning swimmer who was going unconscious, so I jumped in the water,” Quigley said after the exercise.
Quigley and his colleagues sprung into action. They knew something was coming – this specific training session had been rescheduled due to poor weather in June – but they didn’t know exactly what. They were aware the person they were saving wasn’t in actual danger, but that didn’t lessen the seriousness of the lifeguards while executing their duties.
“Everybody on our team has gone through so many hours of training in order to be here, and everybody here, I’m 100% confident to work with,” Quigley said. “With something like this, it’s almost second nature to a lot of us. Just go in and go through the steps.”
Willum Kelly, waterfront director, was proud of the work the lifeguards did on the cold, spring-like morning, far from a typical July day in Orillia.
“It’s hard to simulate it sometimes when there’s only two people swimming at the beach, but I think for what they did, they did a really good job,” he said.
Couchiching Beach can see as many as 150 people each day, with Moose Beach hosting up to 300 on weekends. Having more people on the beach makes it more difficult for the lifeguards to keep their eyes on the water at all times, ensuring the swimmers are remaining safe and not in distress.
Standards set by the Lifesaving Society call for lifeguards to be able to scan from one end of the beach to the other in 20-30 seconds, encompassing all bathers in the water during that time frame.
In the past two weeks, two swimmers in distress have been assisted by Orillia lifeguards. On average, Kelly said the city has less than 10 situations that require assistance from emergency personnel.
Those incidents can happen at any time, Quigley stressed.
“I think it’s like any major medical emergency,” he said. “(It’s like) a heart attack. No thinks they’re ever going to have a heart attack... Realistically, it could still happen. It’s the same thing at the beach. Most people have never experienced or seen a real drowning before; it doesn’t occur to them that it’s a real possibility.”
Since the start of July, five people have drowned in waters in the OPP’s Central Region, including a incident on Green River near Washago during the Canada Day long weekend. In another incident, Saturday along the Lake Huron shoreline in Saugeen First Nation, an Orillia doctor drowned after falling off a paddle board.
The preventative message that may have helped all six of those people survive continues to be ignored, said Sgt. Steve Mihills, of the OPP’s Snowmobile, All-Terrain Vehicle and Vessel Enforcement Team.
While visiting the Barrie Canoe and Kayak Club, two day campers with Emmanuel Baptist Church discuss seating arrangements before heading out onto Kempenfelt Bay on Thursday. The group, which consisted of more than 30 children, spent the day learning water safety and other techniques.
CPR is performed on a ‘drowning victim’ during a training exercise for Orillia lifeguards and first-responders at Couchiching Beach Park, Thursday morning.