While the Town of Inuvik’s plans to have a freely accessible ‘loaner box’ of personal flotation devices that boaters would be able to access have been put on hold by Covid-19 restrictions, that has not stopped town staffers from finding a way to offer the PFDs.
Midnight Sun Complex aquatics supervisor Bob Everett said anyone who wanted to borrow life preservers for a family boating trip merely needed to phone the MSC’s front desk and ask.
“Let’s say you have a family that requires two adult, two adolescent and two children’s PFD, you’d come to the complex and you would sign a form, saying when you will return them,” he said. “And then when you return them, we hose them down and then disinfect them for four days. Then we can loan them out again.”
Everett said the main concern the town had been grappling with was the need to de-contaminate the PFDs after use. By having an open door facility people just visited and got the life preservers themselves, the town could not guarantee they would be disinfected.
Instead, by loaning out the jackets through the MSC, staffers can lay the PFDs out to dry for at least three days, which current scientific evidence indicates is the time needed for Covid-19 to live out its lifespan on fabric, plastics and metals.
He added the town had over 100 preservers in four sizes, from infant to adult, so there was enough that anyone who needed a life jacket could get one.
“People can just call in and say what they need and we’ll get it ready for them,” he said. “Next year, if we’re rid of Covid-19 then we’ll have a structure filled with PFDs and it will be the discretion of the borrower to return them.
“We want to make it really easy for boaters next year, but this year, because of Covid-19 you have to come pick them up at the MSC.”
A 2016 report of recreational boating statistics by the United States Coast Guard found that out of 486 recorded drowning deaths in that year, in 404 cases — or 83 per cent — the victim was not wearing a life jacket. A pamphlet provided by the town of Inuvik notes that “research has shown that Indigenous communities experience rates of water-related fatalities up to 10 times greater than the average Canadian community.”
Everett said the town would offer PFDs so long as people are going on the water, fishing, harvesting or even going on the ice.
“We’re all about saving one life,” he said. “If it costs us $1,000 — well we saved a life, right?”
Anyone interested in a PFD can contact the MSC front desk at 777-8640.