real life

Two toddler drownings in the last week are too many.

Two tragic deaths of young boys and the release of the Royal Life Saving National Drowning Report for 2015 are a reminder that vigilance is so important during the summer months.

Last weekend was a blue-skied preview of the months to come in many parts of Australia. The warm spring weather sent people flocking to beaches and swimming pools.

With the higher temperatures comes the reminder that summer can be a dangerous time, especially for young children. Over the weekend, it was sadly reported that a four year old was pulled from a backyard swimming pool in Bankstown in Sydney’s south-west. The little boy went into cardiac arrest and died shortly after arriving at Westmead Children’s Hospital.

In Melbourne yesterday, a two-year-old boy was reported to have drowned in a backyard pool in the suburb of Melton South. The boy’s mother and emergency services were unable to save him despite performing CPR.

"They cannot be left unsupervised." Image: iStock.

These two tragedies coincide with the release of the Royal Life Saving National Drowning Report for 2015. According to the report, 10 percent of Australians who drowned in the last twelve months were under the age of five. While the numbers are down on the ten year average, in the last twelve months there was a 30% increase in drownings across Australia, up from 20 in 2014 to 26 in 2015. The report states in no uncertain terms that this statistic is of high concern.

“It’s horrific,” says Kaye Wood, Aquatic Programs Coordinator at Royal Lifesaving NSW, “26 lives lost, that’s an entire classroom full of little children.”

The saddest thing about swimming pool drownings is that they are preventable. Ms Wood reiterates that supervision is key for children under the age of five. “Small children have no idea of the dangers of water,” she explains, “Even if they have demonstrated at age 3 or 4 that they can swim back to the wall of a pool, they cannot be left unsupervised by an adult. If there is an accident or surprise situation, they won’t be able to do what they’ve been taught.”

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While swimming lessons are popular even for small babies, Kaye is quick to point out that these lessons are more about water awareness that actually teaching children how to swim. “They learn to enjoy the water and gain confidence but before the age of five what’s most important is helping children to understand the dangers and to know that they should never try to go swimming alone.”

Teach your kids how to swim, close the pool gate and watch them in the water. Image: iStock.

As well as constant vigilance, the Royal Life Saving Society recommends several steps as part of the Home Pool Safety Checklist. These include making sure that gates swing shut and latch securely, checking fencing has no gaps or holes and that there are no trees or outdoor furniture that children can use to scale a fence. When children under five are swimming, the recommendation is to always be “within arms reach” and never to leave the responsibility of a small child’s safety with an older child.

The Royal Life Saving Society also recommends that if you have a swimming pool, you must have up to date resuscitation skills and a first aid kit to hand in case of accidents. There are further reminders on the Royal Life Saving website of the dangers of pumps and grates, especially for children with long hair. Parents are also encouraged store brightly coloured pool toys out of sight and away from temptation when they are not being used.

The message is loud and clear: watch your children around the water. Don’t let summer become a tragedy for your family.

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