Thursday, May 18, 2017

Where there’s water, there’s risk: What you need to know prior to using Calgary’s rivers and waterways recreationally this long weekend

The City’s Partners in Water Safety (comprised of the Calgary Fire Department, the Calgary Police Service and Community Standards), encourages Calgarians to prioritize safety, and educate themselves and others, before going rafting or boating on a city waterway over the long weekend and duration of the warm weather months.

Your personal safety and the safety of others is paramount, and Partners in Water Safety urges all river users to proceed with caution and to know the risks before going on the water.

Anyone boating or rafting on a city river, lake or waterway should take the following actions:
  1. Check for river safety advisories. The Calgary Fire Department issues river safety advisories when the conditions of the Bow and Elbow Rivers pose an elevated risk to river users. Also learn the river’s course to ensure you know of any heightened risks on your journey (for example, Harvey Passage remains closed at this time).
  2. Ensure you have a properly fitting life jacket or personal flotation device for each individual utilizing the waterways recreationally. This is not only a bylaw requirement; it can save your life.
  3. Understand the consequences of unsafe behavior. Being intoxicated and/or transporting alcohol on the water is illegal. Not only do you put yourself and others at risk; fines will be issued to those that that do not comply. Understanding the consequences of these actions for your personal safety is imperative.
  4. Tell someone responsible where you are going and when you will return.
  5. Prepare and carry an emergency kit on your boat or raft (anyone in a watercraft must not only wear a personal flotation device, but also have an emergency kit on board. Kit requirements include: a bailing device, a paddle, a sound signalling device and a buoyant tow line.)
  6. Know the elements in advance: check Calgary weather conditions at Environment Canada.
  7. Check river flow rates at Alberta River Basins for advisories and warnings, river ice reports, and more (or download the Alberta Rivers: Data and Advisories app)
Once you’ve done your homework, utilized the checklist above, and are ready to embark on a river or waterway, take the following measures from shore:
  1. Scout the river for potential hazards
  2. Assess the level of danger (also assess the swimming and paddling skills of your crew)
  3. Decide if it is safe to raft or boat

Peace Officers and the Calgary Police Service will be out enforcing municipal bylaws and provincial statutes this weekend and over the course of the season. Any rafters practicing unsafe, illegal or disrespectful behaviours will be subject to fines. All Calgarians enjoying the rivers and waterways must do so cautiously and safely, while complying with city bylaws.

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