Are we experiencing a drowning epidemic?
With 3 to 4 times more fatalities than usual over the Christmas and New Year period, and almost as many water deaths as car fatalities, some are calling it a drowning epidemic.
The worst thing is, so many of these tragedies are preventable. From toddlers, including a twin boy and girl from the same family, to teenagers and grown adults, factors such as unlatched gates, unfenced ponds, swimming alone and alcohol consumption all have played their part.
Even more frightening is the fact that in some of the deaths reported, there have been no obvious risk factors at play. Fences and gates were safety compliant and closed, there was nothing to be climbed near the fence, however the child still made it into the pool and lost their life.
It can happen to any of us. On Christmas Eve my 2 year old son somehow managed to get his back float off, and was standing on the edge of the pool, about to jump in, when I saw him. Adults were all around, just metres away, chatting, but no one was looking directly at my toddler. Thank goodness I noticed, but with a house full of guests, I could have just as easily been distracted for the next 2 minutes, and the splash may not have been heard by anyone amongst the chatter and music………it just doesn’t bear thinking about.
My point is, no one is immune, and we all have to be vigilant. Which is where the layers of protection come in, so if one layer fails, hopefully the next will be the safety net that prevents a tragedy. Fence the pool, always shut the gate, teach your kids to swim from a young age, ensure active adult supervision, and learn CPR, just in case the worst does happen.
Michael Ilinsky, Royal Life Saving NSW spokesman, said in a recent interview with the ABC that it has been a disastrous summer. “It is definitely the season of distractions — the knock at the door, the ringing phone, other children crying out for assistance; they are the things that take our attention away from backyard swimming pools,” he said.
Justin Scarr from Royal Life Saving has a timely warning for us all, saying “There’s an incredibly tragic risk zone at the beginning of January when people are returning to work after they’ve been in the pool with their kids all summer. Remove pool toys and make sure the gate is working. If you have a portable swimming pool, it’s a good time to pack that away.”
Let’s all heed the warnings and work together to keep our children safer.