Urgent warning about child drowning

Kidsafe Victoria and Life Saving Victoria are calling on parents and carers to ensure children are actively supervised in or around the water this Australia Day holiday to help prevent child drowning.

The call comes as Life Saving Victoria statistics show that five children under the age of 10 have drowned in Victoria since July 1, 2021, including two this summer.

It also follows the recent release of a Coronial finding into the tragic death of a four-year-old boy who died while celebrating his brother’s birthday at a holiday park.

The result found that the busy and hectic environment of a large gathering had created circumstances in which the attention of the adults present was stretched, distracted, or divided.

To overcome these risks and keep children safe in the water, Jason Chambers, General Manager of Kidsafe Victoria, recommended caregivers have designated supervisors to ensure there is no confusion as to who is looking after children in and around the water.

“When there are a lot of adults around, it’s easy to assume that someone else is actively supervising the children by the waterfront, when in fact nobody is,” Mr Chambers said.

“Twenty seconds and a few inches of water is enough for a toddler to drown. Active adult supervision means keeping them within reach at all times on the water without distractions.”

“To ensure children are actively supervised at all times, we recommend appointing designated supervisors whose job it is to supervise children in and around the pool or other body of water. Rotating this role throughout the day ensures everyone has a chance to enjoy the celebrations.”

dr Bernadette Matthews, Life Saving Victoria’s chief health promotion and communications executive, echoed Mr Chambers’ advice, saying a rise in child drownings in recent years has put the Water Safety Agency on high alert.

In 2020-21, 15 of the state’s 61 fatal drowning victims were children under the age of 14, marking Victoria’s worst drowning toll in 20 years.

“After a terrible year for child drownings last year, we sadly see again this year that children are over-represented in drowning statistics, with one in six fatal drownings in Victoria since 1 July 2021 involving children under the age of 10,” said Dr . matthews

“Every drowning is a tragedy, especially when it involves children, and our sincere condolences go out to all those affected by these incidents.

“Drowning should be preventable.

“We fear that people will underestimate the risks associated with water, with fatal consequences.

“While we understand that pool closures and missed swimming lessons have impacted the swimming skills and confidence of thousands of Victorian children, it is important to remember that the primary prevention of child drowning is active and constant adult supervision in the community is near the water.

“A child you cannot see is a child in danger. Don’t let a lack of focus lead to devastation.”

The organizations have shared their top tips for keeping children safe in and around the water.

Water Safety Tips:

• Actively supervise children in and around the water at all times. For toddlers, this means having an adult within reach.

• At cookouts and pool parties, designate supervisors whose job it is to supervise children in and around the pool. This role can be shared throughout the day, giving everyone a chance to enjoy the festivities.

• Do not rely on flotation devices or inflatable pool toys to protect children – they are not designed to prevent drowning.

• Make sure your pool barrier is secure and in good condition.

• Make sure there are no climbable objects near the barrier, including potted plants, chairs, grills, or pool pumps that could allow a child to climb over the barrier.

• Never leave the pool gate open, this allows children easy and often unsupervised access to the pool area.

• Learn CPR and update your skills regularly.

• Be aware of other potential water hazards as young children can drown in just a few inches of water. These include eskys with melted ice, splash/inflatable pools, bathtubs with reachable plugs, and ponds.

For more information on Kidsafe’s water safety tips and Safe Barriers Save Lives pool safety campaign, visit the Kidsafe Victoria pool and spa safety website. Details: www.kidsafevic.com.au/water-safety/pool-fence-safety/

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Mike Hunter

Mike is the owner of the local pool shop. He's been in the business for over 20 years and knows everything there is to know about pools. He's always happy to help his customers with whatever they need, whether it's advice on pool maintenance or choosing the right chemicals. He's also a bit of a pool expert, and is always happy to share his knowledge with anyone who's interested.

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