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Lifeguards prepare for the worst

Mock drowning exercise held in partnership with OPP, EMS, fire department

Kaylyn Gammon’s chest was a bit sore from the CPR, but she was none the worse after being pulled from Lake Couchiching on Wednesday.

“It was pretty fun,” she said.

That’s not the response one would expect from a drowning “victim,” but Gammon was simply playing the role.

City of Orillia lifeguards were all business, though.

The city held a mock drowning exercise at Moose Beach, at Tudhope Park. A line of lifeguards held hands as they searched the shallow water. Another lifeguard, equipped with a snorkel, took to the deeper water. Paramedics waited nearby as firefighters and police patrolled the water in their boats.

The city’s lifeguards regularly take part in training, but this was the first time they were able to do so with their partners in safety: Orillia Fire Department, Orillia OPP, Simcoe County Paramedic Services, and North Simcoe Victim Services.

“We’re glad to have the opportunity to work with our emergency services. It’s a good way to show people what lifeguards are trained to do,” said lifeguard supervisor Peter Quigley.

Everybody had a part to play in Wednesday’s exercise. Police secured the area on the beach where CPR was taking place. The paramedics didn’t push the lifeguards out of the way; rather, they took advantage of their presence to help continue CPR as Gammon was loaded onto a gurney and wheeled to an ambulance.

Quigley gave his team an A-plus on their performance.

“I’m really happy with them,” he said. “They performed to their highest standards. Everybody really co-operated with emergency services. It was very impressive.”

Sydney Whyte, the city’s waterfront director, agreed.

“It went really well,” she said. “They did exactly what they were trained to do, which is great.”

The city posts lifeguards at Moose Beach and Couchiching Beach, and while they haven’t had to deal with “too many major incidents” over the years, “we want them to be prepared,” Whyte said.

Lifeguards tend to be young — the 14 working for the city this summer are between 16 and 22 — but they showed their maturity during the mock drowning, Whyte said.

“They are all very mature and have my full confidence.”

Area beaches will only get busier as the season goes on, and Whyte is urging people to make safety their No. 1 priority when they go for a dip, especially with children.

“Drowning can happen very quickly,” she said. “We want to make sure people know, when coming to beach, to keep their kids in arm’s reach.”

Moose Beach and Couchiching Beach will officially open for the season Friday.


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Nathan Taylor

About the Author: Nathan Taylor

Nathan Taylor is the desk editor for Village Media's central news desk in Simcoe County.
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