Water safety floats our boat

Enjoying Alberta’s many lakes and rivers is a great way to beat the summer heat, and in Alberta’s provincial parks, it’s the job of our Conservation Officers to patrol water bodies and make sure everyone is safe. In emergency situations, they could be navigating through high waves and thunderstorms, so they need to know how to handle their boats.

You could say our Conservation Officers are experts when it comes to water safety and boat operations. In fact, Conservation Officers lead one of the province’s top boating courses for law enforcement officers and other first responders such as the RCMP, Canadian Wildlife Service, Parks Canada, Edmonton Police Service and municipal fire departments. In addition to the basics, participants in this course learn how to handle a boat in hazardous situations, how to conduct a search and rescue on the water, and how to safely operate a boat at night. When they’re not in a boat, the participants are in a classroom learning things like how to extinguish fires, how to help someone suffering from emotional stress after a serious incident, and how being immersed in cold water affects the human body.

Speaking of being immersed in cold water, participants in the course actually start with a swim test in the frigid waters of Battle Lake. This experience drives home the importance of lifejackets and other personal floatation devices, and shows how cold water can affect breathing and other bodily functions. After the swim test, the participants start driving smaller, slower-moving boats to get a feel for how it’s done. Once they’re comfortable, they take the bigger Boston Whalers (which are shown in all the pictures) out for a spin.

The course was even on a television show called Let’s Go Outdoors. Click here and skip to the 16-minute mark to see the Conservation Officers and their boats in action.

The pictures below were taken from the instructor’s boat. The Conservation Officer instructing the other boats wears neon gloves so everyone can clearly see his hand signals. Together, the students driving the boats practice formations and alternating positions to help simulate different water conditions and allow them to sharpen their throttle control and boat handling skills.

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