Do you live at or visit a property with a backyard swimming pool?
The majority of young children who drown do so in backyard swimming pools, If your children are at a property with a pool in the yard, remembering the layers of protection is absolutely vital. Simple steps can be taken to make what should be a fun, healthy experience much safer.
- Regularly check the pool fence and gate are in proper working order.
- Remove items that can be used to climb the fence; eg, chairs and eskies. Heavy, secured furniture is best.
- Never prop the gate open – the prop is easily forgotten.
- Remove toys from in and around the pool when not in use. They are a major attraction for youngsters.
- Constantly reinforce the water safety rules of your house; (eg. 1 only go swimming with a grown up).
- Keep a phone poolside so that you never have to leave the pool to answer it and can call for help if needed.
- Consider other layers of protection, in addition to fencing such as pool nets, covers or alarms.
- CPR charts should be on display.
- Supervision, supervision, supervision. Come prepared – be ready to get wet.
What about pool parties?
At all poolside gatherings, sober adult supervisors must be appointed as ‘pool watchers’. They should never leave their ‘post’ until replaced by another competent adult supervisor. Drowning frequently happens when one adult thought another adult was supervising. Check out Swim Australia’s Pool Water lanyard.
What if we are visiting?
If your child is visiting another home with a pool, ensure that the pool is properly fenced. If the pool is to be used, constant supervision by a competent adult must be provided. Don’t assume they will be safe – check that there are layers to protect them from drowning.
What are our responsibilities as pool owners?
It is essential that your children learn swimming and water safety skills to a high level and that all adults learn CPR.
Did you know that heavy rainfall has been known to wash away enough space under a pool fence for a toddler to crawl through?
Around the Home
What other way could my child drown at home?
The home environment is filled with potential water hazards to young children. Parents and carers must be thorough in assessing these hazards and removing them. Children’s abilities to explore, move, climb and find water in the home increase as they grow, and many parents whose children have drowned were unaware that their child could access the water hazard. It is never too early to check your home and identify potential water hazards. Drownings have occurred in all of the following:
- Nappy and laundry buckets – lids on securely too
- Eskies and ice buckets at parties – keep out of reach of toddlers.
- Large containers in yards – anything that can hold rainwater – empty regularly.
- Water features, fish ponds – a layer of wire is advised
- Wading pools should always be emptied after use and put away where they cannot be filled up with water following rainfall.
- Outside spas should be fenced in addition to having secure closing covers.
- Washing machines and toilets – restrict toddler access.
- Pet’s water bowl – keep it shallow.
Did you know that infants are ‘top heavy’? They are drawn to containers of water, but as they lean in they can easily lose their balance and fall in head first, finding it almost impossible to right themselves. In just minutes, tragedy can strike.
What about bath tubs?
Bath time can be a wonderful time of exercise and bonding. Tragically, though, several children drown in bath tubs every year. Never leave small children alone in a bath and empty them as soon as the child is out. Caregivers responding to distractions – doorbell, phone ringing, kettle boiling etc. – are often why children drown in the bath. Another valuable tip is to ensure everything needed, like towels, pyjamas etc are ready beforehand … and take the phone with you or ignore it if it rings! In essence, it is back to Layer 1 – Supervision: NEVER leave the bathroom until bath time is completed and the tub is empty; and NEVER leave another sibling in charge. Also, keep the bath plug out of reach of children.
What about rural properties?
Drowning is the number one cause of child farm fatality in Australia. People who live on or visit rural properties must be very aware of the drowning hazards and insure the layers of protection are present. Farmsafe Australia recommends that rural properties have a securely fenced house yard (safe play area) for young children to play, unless an adult is available to closely supervise them on the farm. For more information on farm safety visit www.farmsafe.org.au
What about when we’re out and about?
Family outings have turned to tragedy when out visiting or on holidays. Always be aware and check for dangers. Children have drowned in all of the following:
- Wading pools
- Neighbouring pools and spas
- Garden ponds
- Open drains
- Animal drink troughs
- Water tanks
- Post holes
Barriers will rarely be present for these hazards, son constant, competent supervision is essential. Remember that wherever you and your child are, you must be on the look out for water hazards.
What about public pools?
The trip to the public pool is not one where the responsibility for your child is passed onto someone else. As Royal Life Saving Society – Australia points out: “As a parent you have a responsibility to look after your own children – lifeguards do a great job of keeping our pools safe but they are not babysitters”.
At the beach, the message from Surf Life Saving Australia is an excellent one:
F - Find the flags and swim between them – the red and yellow flags mark the safest place to swim at the beach.
L - Look at the safety signs – they help you identify potential dangers and daily conditions at the beach
A - Ask a surf lifesaver for some good advice – surf conditions can change quickly so talk to a surf lifesaver or lifeguard before entering the water.
G - Get a friend to swim with you – so you can look out for each other’s safety and get help if needed. Children should always be supervised by an adult.
S - Stick your hand up for help – if you get into trouble in the water, stay calm, raise your arm to signal for help. Float with a current or rip – don’t try and swim against it.
Did you know that your child should be wearing a well-fitted, Australian Standards approved Personal Flotation Device (PFD) while out on water craft such as boats – even if they are a competent swimmer.
Please note: Alcohol is often a contributing factor in many drownings. Supervision becomes lax at a time when children want to explore a new environment.