The first thing to know about water safety is that children can never be completely SAFE around water.
No child, no matter how well they can swim, is totally safe, because accidents happen. That’s why swimming experts talk about making children SAFER.
“Being SAFER is about layers of protection and recognising that we can never be totally safe. We should never be complacent around water,” says Carlile Swimming Director, former teacher and Australian champion Richard Cahalan.
Carlile has been teaching children to swim well for 75 years and is regarded as one of the world’s leading swim schools. Carlile has worked with the Australian Swim Schools Association and supports its SAFER swimming campaign.
That campaign has five layers of protection. They are:
1 – Swimming Skills – learning to swim well is a vital step. At Carlile we consider that completing our program and graduating as a Shark. At that level your child will be able to swim 400 metres freestyle with sound technique.
2 – Adult Supervision – constant supervision by a competent adult is the most critical factor in preventing drowning. This means being within arms-reach of any non-swimmer, maintaining constant visual contact and not being distracted by phones or conversations. Royal Life Saving Society Australia reports that “the lack of direct adult supervision is the main factor in 70% of toddler drowning deaths”.
3 – Fences & Gates – make sure your pool has compliant fencing and gates. These should be regularly checked and anything that could be used by a child to climb over the fence or gate should be removed.
4 – Emergency Plan – having an emergency action plan can save a life. If a child is missing, every second counts. Check the pool and other water hazards first. Do you know CPR? If not, then enrol in a course ASAP.
5 – Reduce the Risk. The steps above can help reduce the risk. Fortunately, drowning deaths amongst children in Australia have steadily declined in comparison to the prior COVID Lockdowns.
The COVID enforced lockdowns are a tragic reminder of how important learning to swim can be. After last year’s lockdown 25 children (between 0-4) died from drowning, a tragic increase of 108%. The increase for 5-to-14-year-old’s was 56%. Learning to swim saves lives.
At this time each year, to coincide with the first week of summer, Carlile holds its SAFER swimming week.
“It’s a perfect time, it’s getting warmer and families are getting ready to spend more time in and around the water,” Mr Cahalan said.
Any drowning is a tragedy and after a longer shutdown in 202, staying vigilant about the five layers to SAFER swimming has never been more vital.
You can find out more information about what should be in your emergency plan at the Australian Swim Schools Association website.