With the final hours of the school year ticking away, children around the country are preparing for a summer full of sun, fun and swimming.
But as parents we simply must to remember that for one toddler per week in Australia, a fun swim will have deadly results.
Drowning is the number one cause of preventable death in children aged one to five.
It can happen in seconds, in as little as three centimetres of water. Often there is an adult just a few metres away. In other cases the supervising parent doesn’t even realise that the child has ventured near a pool.
This year the Royal Life Saving Society of WA has released a video where three parents share the story of their toddler drowning. Each individual’s story is a harrowing reminder of how quickly lives can be changed forever.
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The messages here from each parent are 100 percent clear.
Keep watch, keep watch, keep watch.
The mother of drowning victim Ari, who was left severely brain damaged after falling from a houseboat clarifies that it’s not about knowing CPR and having an idea of what to do in the event of an accident. It’s prevention that is key.
Mia’s mother explains that her daughter drowned noiselessly, slipping under the water in a pool that was full of children and surrounded by adults.There was no splashing, no call for help. Just complete silence.
Add to this the story of four year old William Corben, who drowned in his neighbour’s pool on the Gold Coast earlier this year. The inquest has heard that the tragic event may have happened due to the pool fence being propped open.
William had been next door playing with other children. His mother Hayley had no idea that they were swimming. Her message is that children must be actively supervised around water, and also that the laws surrounding pool fencing need to be enforced.
The Royal Life Saving Society of WA recommends four strategies to prevent toddler drowning.
First and foremost - constant supervision. This means staying within arm’s reach of a child whenever they are near water, especially if they don’t know how to swim. Older children should not be left in charge of their younger siblings and if you as the supervising adult need to leave a pool, even briefly - take your children with you.
Preventing access to water is the next step. Pool fencing must be secure and stable, with gates that self-latch. Make sure there is nothing a child can use to climb over a fence. Empty paddling pools after use. Cover ponds and water features with a strong mesh - a child can drown in even the shallowest fountain.
Teaching a child to be confident in and around water is also key. Swimming lessons are important from an early age but these are to teach your children basic survival skills - don’t be lulled into a false sense of security and think that a child under the age of five is capable of swimming unsupervised.
Finally, if you can’t find your child in your house, check the pool, the bathroom, the laundry or anywhere else with water first. Take a CPR course so that you can perform first aid while you wait for help to arrive. According to the Royal Lifesaving Society's website, “In the case of a drowning, any CPR is better than no CPR. Even if you haven’t completed a course, try your best until further help arrives.”
Do you have any other strategies to prevent drowning?