The Recreation, Athletics and Wellness Centre (RAWC) is implementing a new program aimed at teaching students the essential skills required to survive an unexpected fall into deep water.

Appropriately called “Swim to Survive,” the free program will offer students the opportunity to learn three lifesaving swimming techniques with an aquatic professional.

The Swim to Survive program teaches the most basic and fundamental skills needed to save yourself if you were to fall into deep water,” the RAWC’s Aquatics Programming Coordinator Marcin Kilmowicz told The Medium.

The new program leads students through a series of simulations that mimic common ways someone can unexpectedly fall into the water.

In the first program component called Roll, participants are taught to understand feelings of disorientation associated with falling into water. “Someone may experience falling out of a boat, slipping into a river, or breaking through an icy pond,” said Kilmowicz.

In the second Tread component, participants will learn to keep their mouth and nose above the water’s surface to call for help and continue breathing.

“Once a destination is determined, participants will swim 50 metres to safety,” Kilmowicz explained.

During the final Sequence component, students are expected to build endurance in the water. Completed without interruption, this component reinforces the reality presented by an unexpected fall into deep water.

Andrea Carter, Assistant Dean of Student Wellness, Support and Success, says U of T Mississauga Athletics is committed to student safety by providing necessary skill sets that allow students to engage in a variety of activities.

“Canadian summers often include cottages by the lake, swimming pools, and water sports,” says Carter. “Academic opportunities include fieldwork near rivers and streams or larger bodies of water. We want to ensure our students feel confident and have the necessary skills to be safe while having fun.”

According to the 2019 Lifesaving Society report, about one third or 30 per cent of people who drowned between 2012 and 2016 engaged in an aquatic recreational activity at the time of their death.

The majority of aquatic recreational deaths happened by swimming (41 per cent), followed by walking, running, or playing near water (15 per cent).

Major risk factors consistent with drownings that Lifesaving Society’s 2017 report has identified include being unable to swim (40 per cent), swimming alone (34 per cent), and alcohol consumption (29 per cent).

Due to the pervasiveness of drowning-related deaths and injuries in Canada, Kilmowicz and Carter strongly encourage students to partake in UTM’s Swim to Survive program.

Natural bodies of water account for the largest proportion of drowning deaths in the province. Lakes and ponds were shown to be the most common site for drowning fatalities (43 per cent), followed by rivers and streams (22 per cent).

The vast majority of Ontario victims also continue to be men, at least eight out of ten when compared to women.

A 2010 study commissioned by Lifesaving Society shows that “New Canadians” are four times more likely to not know how to swim (when compared to people born in Canada).

“UTM is home to so many international students from all over the world,” Carter highlighted. “We have a responsibility to make sure all of our students, and not just the ones born in Canada, have an equal opportunity to be safe around water.”

The Department of Recreation, Athletics, and Wellness seeks to set the stand ard for how post-secondary institutions can eliminate drowning accidents in communities, including the vital roles they play off-campus, such as in public health.

UTM’s Swim to Survive is a free program offered monthly on Saturday and Sunday evenings. The program is not meant to teach swimming; however, it aims to motivate participants to pursue swimming education by signing-up for formal lessons.

Starting in October, new sessions will begin on the first weekend of every month. The program is not meant to teach swimming; however, it motivates participants to pursue formal swimming lessons.

Swim to Survive is a survival training program designed by Lifesaving Society, a registered charity and full-service provider of programs, products, and services to prevent drowning and water-related injury.

Students can register for the Swim to Survive program now or view the program schedule through UTM’s recreation webpage.

For more information or for any questions, students can also visit campus aquatics through the UTM Athletics webpage.

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