Living in a country that has a very ingrained water culture is double-edged.
Nobody knows this more than Ky Hurst – lifesaver, Olympian and iron man, who since becoming dad to five-year-old Koa and eight-month-old baby Asha, is more vigilant than ever.
As a lifesaver, Ky has seen first-hand how quickly a situation can turn disastrous, and says when it comes to protecting and educating children against drowning, prevention is key.
“A lot of the drownings you don’t hear about either, they happen so fast,” he says speaking of the 291 drowning deaths that occurred in Australia from the first of July 2016 to the 30th of June 2017.
“It’s just alarming.”
Describing a situation when he was training at a local pool, Ky says it’s easy for a struggling child to be overlooked when there are many children about.
“There were lots of children in the pool swimming around, but no one saw him and he went under,” says Ky.
“I was just lucky that I saw him because he looked like he was struggling, so I asked him, pulled him out and he was perfectly fine, but seconds later, if I hadn’t have seen it, something much worse could have happened.”
LISTEN: The creator of the Kids Alive campaign, Laurie Lawrence, shares his best advice for keeping kids safe around water this summer. Post continues after audio.
Now, when not training for his next athletic pursuit, such as surf lifesaving nationals, ironman titles or sailing for the Oracle Team USA, Ky has made it his mission to preach water safety both as a lifeguard, and aims to empower parents and guardians with cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) skills.
“Our role at the end of the day are like guardian angels,” Ky says.
“No matter how well trained you are or how well your kids swim, accidents do happen and you’ve got to be realistic about this.
“We just want to keep an eye on the younger ones, make sure they’re safe, make sure they’re having fun, while doing everything in our power to make sure that if anything does happen, we have everything in place.
These are Ky’s tips:
Learning CPR is a must.
As an ambassador for Westpac’s Rescue Rashie campaign, a collaboration with CPR Kids, Ky sees learning CPR as not only vital in ensuring your kid’s well being, but also as a “reassurance for everyone around you”.
The concept behind the Rescue Rashie however, is blindingly simple, he says.
“It was something that I wish I had thought of many, many years ago,” says Ky a fan of the Australian made, UPF 50+, rash shirt with lifesaving CPR instructions printed directly onto the rash vest.
While this means that in an emergency, anyone would have access to CPR instructions, it can also prevent someone going into shock, or panic-mode, and forgetting their life-saving training.
“None of us know how we’ll act in a situation when it’s a loved one. Whether you’re trained or not trained in CPR is completely irrelevant,” Ky says.
“I’ve been doing this for a very long time, it’s my business, but even I don’t know how I’d react in that situation, especially if it was my own child.
“I’m a pretty cool, calm and collected guy, so I’d like to think that I’d act that way, but I don’t know if in an emergency I’d be able to.”
Never lose sight of your child.
Essentially, prevention is better than the cure, and ensuring that you always have an eye on your child when they’re in the pool or at the beach is key.
While this may sound like common sense, removing a child that might look as if their struggling in the water, or bringing a child back into the shallow end of the pool before they’re taking on water, can prevent an incident before it starts.
“It’s always those split-second situations where you’ve taken your eyes off your kids, that something bad happens. That moment always seems to the worst time,” says Ky.
“But you can alleviate that problem by never losing track of your kids, no matter the circumstance and reassuring whoever is looking after your kids that they can’t look away. It’s so important.
“If an emergency comes up and you’ve got to run into the house get [your kids] out, tell them to hold for two or five minutes, whatever it is, and then they can play again,” he says.
How to actually spot a flailing child.
According to Westpac’s Water Safety Survey, there are some frequent misconceptions Aussie families have meaning that they miss the initial signs that a child is in trouble. While almost a third of parents think that the first sign of drowning is splashing, according to the Royal Life Saving Society WA most drownings occur silently. Instead, they happen as a result of the child panicking when submerged underwater and thus unable to splash or call for help.
Just because your kids are adept swimmers doesn’t insure them against drowning either, as nearly 40 per cent of parents may believe. Accidents can still happen when children are in unfamiliar environments, like swimming at a greater depth, or at the beach, where they’re prone to panic and thus forget their swimming skills.
As Ky says, “My kids are in the water every single day and they go to a learn to swim program, however, just because my kid might be the next Ian Thorpe, that doesn’t mean I’m not watching him swim constantly.”
LISTEN: On this episode of This Glorious Mess, Holly Wainwright and Jay Laga’aia talk everything water safety with Laurie Lawrence.