OPP officer Marty Singleton has been working hard to get life jackets to communities in need since the tragic passing of his dear friend and fellow officer, Bob Mainville.
In the summer of 2010 Mainville drown and since his passing, Singleton has been promoting water safety and campaigning to get as many life jackets to First Nations communities as possible.
Since 2015 he has been able to visit a total of 25 First Nations communities across Northwestern Ontario and distribute over 1,500 life jackets.
With this week (July 15-21)being National Drowning Prevention Week, he has made plans to visit the Gull Bay First Nation, located north of Thunder Bay to donate life jackets and spread awareness there.
He also has plans to engage with other First Nation communities in the north that he has not yet been to.
During drowning prevention week Singleton would like to remind people of a few safety tips when in and around the water.
“Be aware of your surroundings when your swimming,” he stressed.
Singleton added that you should never jump into waters you are unfamiliar with, especially when diving.
“It is also important to build your confidence in the water," he added. "Take a [swimming] course in order to become a more confident swimmer.”
For those who aren't confident swimmers, Singleton emphasizes the importance of wearing a life jacket.
“If your not a confident swimmer then do ensure you have the means to [stay safe],” he stressed,
One of the most important yet widely ignored water safety tip is wearing a life jacket.
“No matter how old you are have a life jacket with you, make sure you're wearing it because in the blink of an eye something can happen and you may not have time to react,” Singleton warned.
When encountering drowning victims he says the common denominator he sees is “no life jackets.”
“It really is to a certain degree a preventable tragedy and there are steps we can take ourselves to ensure we all get to go home at the end of the day,” he said.
Another important factor to consider before going for a swim is the use of alcohol or other substances.
“Ensure that you are not mixing alcohol with your activities in the water, that would obviously effect your judgement of what you can and can not do and your confidence level,” Singleton explained.
For parents, he emphasizes the importance of keeping eyes on young ones at all times when in and around a body of water.
“Keep an eye on your children and ensure that your watching them and not being preoccupied or distracted by your phone or an electronic device that keeps your head down,” Singleton stressed.
He also noted that there are some misconceptions when it comes to drowning related fatalities.
“You can be an arms reach from land or from a boat or even a dock when something tragic can happen,” Singleton warned.
Moving forward he plans on continuing to visit First Nations communities and providing them with flotation devices.
“It's important for me to keep with the momentum of the life jacket campaign because with all the work that's been done, if one life jacket that went to a community ultimately saves a life, then it speaks for itself,” he pleaded.