NSW Drowning Incidents
At least five toddlers in NSW have drowned in backyard pools since December last year, four of which drowned in Sydney suburbs, an alarming increase from the two backyard pool drownings that took place in the whole of the financial year. Sydney weather broke record temperatures this past summer, as Wishart of Surf Life Saving mentioned could be to blame for the sudden increase in drownings in backyard pools and other inland bodies of water; “This time last year was quite miserable and cold and people were not in the water to the same extent.” Unsupervised toddlers made their way to their backyard pools and a lack of supervision, proper fencing or absence of other precautions made pool access easy and claimed lives within minutes.
Pool Safety – Pool Fencing and Gates
According to Royal Life Saving NSW, swimming pool fencing remains a key policy issue for state and territory governments as inadequate fencing or care with closing fence gates continues to prove itself to be a major contributor to child drownings in backyard pools, causing up to 75 per cent of backyard drownings. It is suspected that the drowning of 2 year old Vera Peacock in Macquarie Fields happened while Vera, not being within an adult’s sight, had either managed to open the gate to the pool herself or had spotted the gate already ajar and quickly disappeared into the pool.
To ensure the safety of their children, parents are urged to keep a close eye on their toddlers when there is a pool nearby and to make sure that the fencing around their pool fits the NSW pool fencing requirements, including: 1.2 metre minimum height, with gaps no larger than 10 centimetres between the bottom of the fence and the ground, gaps between vertical bars no wider than 10 centimetres, climbable horizontal bars no less than 90 centimetres apart, no climbable equipment such as chairs placed near the fence and a child-safe lock. This should be accompanied by carefully checking that the gate can been closed properly and for any faults in the gate’s structure.
Drowning Case in Kellyville Ridge Sparks Concern
Vera’s relatives warn guardians across Australia to be more vigilant at any scene with a pool nearby, saying: “Don’t assume you know where they are, be sure you know where they are.” This should be carefully regarded especially in distracting situations like the busy family gathering Vera and her mother were attending. Another drowning incident in Kellyville Ridge, of twins 23 months old, proves that even proper fencing cannot be enough to save toddlers if they are not under constant watch from their parents, within arm’s reach at all times around the pool.
Police said that Robbie and Charli Manago slipped out of their parents’ view for only a short time before they were found unconscious in the backyard pool, despite the pool having met all NSW safety requirements. Matt Preston and Royal Life Saving’s recent World’s Most Costly video emphasizes how small distractions as fast as checking the oven, stepping away to take a phone call or going to the bathroom can give ample time for a disaster to strike. It also covers common mistakes such as leaving the responsibility of supervision with an older sibling who is still a child.
Rising Cost of Swimming Lessons for Children
Swimming lessons from a young age, paired with a carer’s practice in resuscitation and basic lifesaving skills could determine your child’s safety. With approximately 50 per cent of children graduating from primary school without the ability to swim 50 metres, a figure 25 per cent greater than it was a decade ago, and to follow, an even higher per cent of children under 5 without basic swimming skills such as floating and blowing bubbles underwater, the likelihood of the death toll for toddlers due to drowning can only increase.
Michael Ilinsky of the Royal Life Saving Society has said that the slowly rising cost of swimming lessons has had the value of these vital skills overlooked and “tightly squeezed” to make way for other options offered by schools such as rock-climbing and ice-skating. To avoid this risk, swimming lessons should be regarded as a more important part of development for children of young ages to ensure they have at least the bare minimum of survival skills in the water.
Parents Lack CPR Training
Galaxy Research Australia conducted a survey which revealed that one in three parents would not know what to do if their child needed CPR, 28 per cent of parents who have access to a pool said they did not know CPR. These statistics highlight an area of negligence in Australian parents in terms of the safety of their child in pools, an issue able to be solved with little to no complication as CPR can be learned in less than an hour.
Backyard pool drownings are always preventable with constant supervision and the extra precautions of fencing and proper swim education. The next twelve months will not see a smaller death toll for backyard drownings unless the cautions are heeded and tragic drownings taken as a warning to Sydney parents as it is more than likely that Sydney will see another record or near-record summer again, come the end of this year.
To keep your children safe, please contact our pool inspector and certifier to guarantee the safety of your pool.