Please think twice around water this Summer. Just a quick bath, backyard swim or trip to the local beach could end in tragedy.
The Royal Life Saving Australia’s National Drowning Report 2023 revealed a drop in drownings in the past 12 months, however 281 people still lost their lives in the water.
It remains a shocking number and comes after the previous year which claimed 339 lives, the worst year for drownings since 1996.
While a slight decrease is a good sign, we must remember the grief behind the numbers. These families will carry the weight of that loss for the rest of their lives, reminding all Australians that the only acceptable figure is one where no lives are lost.
Bringing your child to swimming lessons is the first step in helping them be safer, but what can we do at home to make sure our backyards are as safe as possible?
Check the water first
69% of drowning deaths in children aged 0-4 this year were from falling into water, most in baths and pools.
If your child is missing, or unusually silent, check these places first. Every second counts.
So often babies and toddlers go exploring and find their way into a pool when they should have had no chance to do so. Be it a fence in disrepair, a gate propped open, climbing on foliage or using a chair. Things can happen so quickly with devastating results.
Royal Life Saving urges against complacency. With summer approaching, pool owners should check that their pool fence is in good working order and that all legal guidelines are met so that you can keep children safe!
Every pool must also have a sign that includes details of resuscitation (CPR) which can be read from 3 meters. Learning CPR could save a life.
Yes, while a pool fence and signage are crucial steps in creating a safer pool environment at home, let’s not forget about the importance of adult supervision.
Supervision is key. If children are playing in and around the water then you need to be alert and watching at all times, especially avoiding “distractions like mobile phones” , says Justin Scarr, the CEO of Royal Lifesaving.
26% of drowning deaths over the past 12 months occurred in the Summer months of December and January, and 43% of drownings in children aged 5-14 years occurred whilst swimming and playing recreationally in the water.
With the Summer months close-approaching, pools, beaches, lakes and creeks are soon going to be busy among young Australian families.
So while always important in and around water, careful adult supervision when spending time at these hotspots is extra critical in ensuring your child’s safety given the added dangers of rips and the unpredictability of tide levels.
“But my child knows how to swim”
Swimming lessons are the most important step in preventing your child from drowning, but they are just the beginning.
For children aged 5-14, swimming recreationally is currently the leading activity occurring prior to drowning, above falling, boating and diving.
Bottom line, there is a stark difference between being able to swim, and being able to swim well. The fact is great technique can save a life. The better you swim, the longer you can do it without getting tired.
As Forbes Carlile said “a child isn’t ready to move on from swimming until they can swim 400m with good technique”.
There are so many other sensible precautions to take, like swimming between the flags, ensuring someone is always watching and never mixing drugs or alcohol with the water.
As the days get longer and the sun gets stronger, lets all do everything we can to keep our children safe.