Water and Harbour Safety

Be safe around swimming pools, lakes, rivers and other bodies of water.

Enjoy water safely by:

  • Learning how to swim
  • Swimming with a friend
  • Wearing a lifejacket
  • Making sure children are supervised around water 
  • Being responsible by not engaging in risky behaviour

Watch the weather

Always check the weather before and during boating. If you feel that there is any risk, don’t go. When the forecast is poor, stay ashore.

All boaters should:

  • Assess the weather
  • Make a decision before heading out on the water
  • Know how to interpret weather changes

Check your local forecast

Threatening weather

Sudden changes in wind can cause a rapid buildup of high waves. Many small pleasure crafts are not designed to handle any great amount of wind/waves and can be easily swamped or capsized. 

If the weather is becoming threatening, head for shore and safety as quickly as you can safely do so. Having a marine chart on board will allow you to find in a bay, cove or other sheltered location to weather out a storm or wind and wave conditions beyond your boat's capability.

If you find yourself caught in bad weather out on the water:

  • Make sure that everyone wears a PFD
  • Slow down and proceed with caution
  • Approach waves bow-on at a 45 degree angle
  • Keep passengers and load low in the boat to avoid capsizing

Weather forecast terminology

Environment Canada uses some specific terms in marine weather forecasts to provide boaters with information on the expected conditions:

  • Light winds: Less than 15 knots (28 km/h) with wave heights up to 1.5 metres
  • Moderate winds: In the range of 15 to 19 knots (28 to 35 km/h) with waves of 1 to 3 metres
  • Strong winds or small craft warnings: Used to report winds of 20 to 33 knots (37 to 61 km/h) with wave heights of 3 to 6 metres
  • Gale warnings: Issued when sustained win speeds are 34 to 47 knots (63 to 87 km/h) and may have waves reaching 6 to 9 metres in height
  • Storm warnings: Continuous wind speeds of 48 to 63 knots (89 to 117 km/h) and wave heights exceeding 8 metres

Fire safety

Many of the common fire prevention tips for homes apply to boats too.

  • When docking at a marina, check around for fire protective measures such as fire extinguishers, cleanliness, clear dock passageways, security, good lighting, etc. If you don't feel safe, notify the marina staff.
  • Use CSA or ULC marine approved cord sets and connections. Do not hook up if you see burn marks or your cord set will not firmly connect.
  • Routinely replace cord sets. Worn or overloaded cord sets and damaged shore power connections are a common cause of fires.
  • Regularly inspect electrical and fuel systems. Have a professional upgrade the wiring to maintain the needs of your navigational equipment and other appliances.
  • Never leave operating electrical equipment, including heaters, unattended. When leaving your boat for any reason, turn portable heaters off.
  • Smoke alarms are important life saving devices and should be installed in your boat.
  • Plan your escape. Having an escape plan can save your life in an emergency.
  • Have an approved fire extinguisher on board and know how to use it. Fire extinguishers should be mounted near an exit so you are moving toward an exit as you access the extinguisher.
  • Keep the dock clean and clear. Don't leave engine parts, tools or other equipment on the dock.
  • Properly dispose of oily rags in a metal container with a tight fitting lid. Leaving oily rags wrapped up in a grocery bag is not safe. The chemicals will begin to breakdown the rags, causing heat and possibly a fire.
  • Boat owners must take responsibility for preventing fires on their boat and in the marina. The most common causes of boat fires-electrical malfunctions, unattended portable heaters and poor housekeeping-are not particular to boating life.

If you see a fire hazard or have concerns, share them with marina management. For additional information on fire safety contact the Oakville Fire Department's Fire Prevention Division at 905-338-4404. 

Enjoy the water safely by learning how to swim, swimming with a friend, wearing a lifejacket, supervising children around water and being responsible by not engaging in risky behaviour.

On hot and sunny days during the summer, keep cool and enjoy the water safely by visiting one of our outdoor pools. Visit our YouTube page to watch a water safety message from the Fire Chief.

Safe swimming

We offer a number of programs to support safe swimming, including learn to swim opportunities.

For more information on water safety, visit the Lifesaving Society website.

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