Drowning - BC Injury Research and Prevention Unit


July 19-25, 2020 is National Drowning Prevention Week in Canada.

Drowning is a leading cause of death for children and near-drowning can result in lengthy hospital stays and can have life-long effects such as brain damage. On average in BC, there are 38 near-drowning cases1 that resulted in an acute hospitalization and 76 drowning deaths per year.2

Quick Facts & Stats ▼ | Prevention ▼ | Information & Resources ▼

Quick Facts & Stats


  • In 88% of drowning deaths in children, they were unsupervised or the supervisor was distracted.
  • Young children and seniors (65+ years) are vulnerable to drowning in artificial bodies of water, including bathtubs and pools.
  • The two most significant risk factors for deaths and hospitalizations related to boating are alcohol consumption and not wearing a PFD/lifejacket.


  • From 2011-2015, 67% of water-related fatalities occurred from May to September.3
  • 35% of water-related fatalities in BC occur while boating, higher than the national average of 27%.[4. Canadian Drowning Report (2018). Prepared for the Lifesaving Society Canada by the Drowning Prevention Research Centre Canada.


  • In 2013, the total cost of drowning to British Columbians was $31 million.


Prevention Tips – At Home

  • Supervise children at all times. A small child can drown in as little as 1 inch of water in just a few seconds.
  • If a young child is unable to swim, ensure s/he is wearing an approved flotation device.
  • Build a fence (4 sided, 4 ft tall) with a self-closing, self-latching gate to surround all pools, including inflatable pools. Pool fencing can prevent 7 out of 10 drownings among children.
  • Ensure you have emergency equipment including a first aid kit and a phone in the immediate pool area.

Prevention Tips – During Recreation

  • Make sure children are well supervised by responsible adults at all times in and around water. Be a child’s lifeguard!
  • Enroll yourself and your child in swimming lessons.
  • Ensure everyone is wearing an approved personal flotation device (PFD) or lifejacket on a boat, at the beach, or at the lake.
  • PFD vs Lifejacket: Both can help you stay afloat from cold water shock, which can affect you regardless of your experience, swimming ability, or closeness to shore. Lifejackets provide more flotation than PFDs. PFDs are for recreational use only and are lighter and less bulky.
  • Learn CPR and/or lifesaving techniques.
  • Be cautious about swimming in currents, and know what to do if you get into trouble.
  • Alcohol should not be consumed before or during swimming or boating activities.
  • When hiking, be mindful of staying on the trails and avoid fast-flowing rivers.

Information & Resources

Useful Websites

  1. 5-year average 2012/13-2016/17, Injury Data Online Tool
  2. 3-year average 2013-2015, Lifesaving Society (2018). BC Drowning Report. (BC Coroners Data)
  3. 3-year average 2013-2015, Lifesaving Society (2018). BC Drowning Report. (BC Coroners Data)