If you’re visiting a park in Ontario this summer, make sure to check whether they offer free PFDs.
With support from Ontario Power Generation, Ontario Parks is lending out PFDs at 70 parks throughout the province. The park locator on its website lists facilities that are part of the PARKsmart lending program, which has been around since 2003. It also lists parks that provide canoe, kayak, or stand-up paddleboard rentals with PFDs included.
According to Ontario Parks, small children, and non-swimmers should always wear a PFD and should never be left unattended, even in shallow waters. For older children and adults who can swim, PFDs are always required while on the boat.
“Statistics support the necessity of a life jacket: 95 per cent of drowning victims were not wearing a PFD,” the Ontario Parks website says. “Anxiety, waves, clothing, and cold water can work against you when found in a dangerous situation.”
The program is part of a greater mission to encourage safety and caution while on the water. During any water activities, Ontario Parks recommends not drinking alcohol and never diving into shallow areas, or areas whose depths are not indicated. In the event of a boating incident, a drowning, or any suspected water-related emergency, Ontario Parks recommends calling the OPP and the park’s office.
While at a park, stick to designated swimming areas, make sure everyone has at least one swimming buddy, and let someone know when you’re going out swimming. Beyond having a PFD for every boater, Ontario Parks says necessary safety equipment for any boat includes:
- First Aid kit
- watertight flashlight
- buoyant heaving line
- paddle or anchor
- bail bucket
- at least one whistle (preferably attached to a PFD)
Ontario Parks also suggests bringing a cellphone, water, snacks, extra clothes, and sunscreen, and it recommends double-checking whether more safety equipment is needed for specific vessels—the province’s requirements vary based on boat size and type.