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Keep Watch research shows alarming scale of toddler drowning

Keep Watch research shows alarming scale of toddler drowning
October 26, 2018

With summer approaching Royal Life Saving Society WA is launching the Keep Watch campaign, urging parents and carers to supervise children around water at all times.

The campaign follows recent statistics from Royal Life Saving Society - Australia that showed 965 children aged under four years drowned in Australia between 1st July 1993 and 30th June 2018.

With Western Australia recording the third highest drowning rate of any state or territory, Royal Life Saving WA Senior Manager Health Promotion and Research, Lauren Nimmo, says a lapse in adult supervision was the major risk factor in 100% of toddler drowning deaths.

Nimmo explains “it only takes a few moments for a child to slip away unnoticed, fall into the water and drown. Drowning is often quick and silent. Distractions like performing household tasks, attending to another child, or ducking inside to grab something can have tragic consequences if a toddler is left unattended by water.”

Home swimming pools are the leading location for drowning deaths among young children in Australia, accounting for more than half of the drowning deaths occurring in this age group. Faulty or propped open gates are the primary risk factors in home pool drowning deaths involving young children.

Nimmo said preventing accidental drowning requires multiple layers of protection, advising “active supervision is the best protection against child drowning, however kids can be quick and hard to keep up with so it’s vital to fence pools and spas to prevent children gaining access.

“We urge all home pool owners to regularly check that your fence and gate are in working order, and never prop the gate open.”

In the past 10 years 874 drowning incidents involving young children have been recorded in Western Australia, with 389 children admitted to hospital as a result and 451 emergency department presentations in the Perth metropolitan area.

During this period, 34 children aged under four have died while many children who have suffered a non-fatal drowning live with a permanent disability as a result.

Simone Soto-Flores’ son, whose son Ari drowned in June 2012, is now a Keep Watch Drowning Prevention Ambassador, urging all parents to be very aware of the need to closely supervise their children around water at all times.

Soto-Flores states “toddler drowning is preventable, but awareness is the only way forward for preventing other families from going through a tragedy like this. There are things we can all do to stop drowning happening. When your children are around water, never take your eyes away, not even for a second. All parents need to learn CPR, it can save a life.”

Nimmo says it’s pleasing that the drowning rate has significantly decreased across Australia in recent years, thanks largely to action at a government and community level, adding “drowning prevention bodies have made a concerted effort in areas such as government policy and enforcement, public awareness and education programs such as Keep Watch, advocacy and research.

“The introduction and subsequent strengthening of pool fencing legislation, including the introduction of swimming pool registers and inspection regimes, has contributed to making the home pool environment safer for young children, saving an estimated 550 lives over the past 20 years.

“If the rate of drowning we had twenty years ago continued today, 70 children aged 0-4 would have drowned in Australia last year, in reality 18 young lives were lost. While this is substantial progress, and many lives have been saved, we won’t stop campaigning until it is zero.”

Although there has been a significant reduction in the rate of drowning among toddlers, drowning remains one of the leading causes of accidental death of children aged under four years old.

Royal Life Saving recommends the following Keep Watch safety tips to keep children safe from drowning:

1. Supervise – always Keep Watch of your child in and around water
2. Prevent your child’s access to water at all times
3. Learn – teach your child to be water confident
4. Respond – learn CPR and call 000 in an emergency

Related Articles

12th October 2018 - Life Saving Victoria’s Watch Around Water urges parents to put their down phones when at the pool

3rd October 2018 - Royal Life Saving Western Australia presents 2018 Bravery Awards

21st September 2018 - New report reveals significant drowning risk for Western Australia’s migrant community

7th September 2018 - German lifeguards warn that child drownings linked to parents’ smartphone ‘fixation’

12th September 2018 - Drowning Deaths decrease but Life Saving bodies urge against water safety complacency

16th August 2018 - Royal Life Saving WA provides Swim and Survive program for CaLD children 

19th April 2018 - Royal Life Saving study finds lack of supervision behind child drownings at public facilities

7th December 2016 - Keep Watch program marks 20 years and an 85% reduction in Western Australia’s toddler drowning rate

9th March 2016 - LIWA Aquatics to present new Watch Around Water ‘Facility of the Year’ Award

30th July 2013 - Aims to link Watch Around Water program with other anti-drowning initiatives

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