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Royal Life Saving warn that ‘10s of thousands of domestic pools are potential death traps’
As it launches its 2011 Keep Watch campaign, Royal Life Saving Society Australia (RLSSA) is warning that child drowning has become a hidden epidemic and says much more must be done to ensure that Australia achieves the 50% reduction in child drowning hoped for by the year 2020.
Highlighting that 28 children under five lost their lives to drowning in the past 12 months and that, in nine years, almost 300 children under five have drowned, Royal Life Saving warns that child drowning is simply not reducing fast enough.
The Society refer to figures that suggest around 60% of all toddler drowning occurs in the child's own home and around 32% of all toddler drowning victims are two year olds, while 26% are one year olds.
RLSSA also warn that a staggering 85% of home pools do not meet current safety standards or are not fenced at all making says tens of thousands of pools across the nation are potential death traps.
As the Society launches its 2011 Keep Watch campaign, with support from one of Australia's most successful swimmers and Keep Watch Ambassador Sam Riley, Royal Life Saving Chief Executive Rob Bradley says all Australians need to do more to reduce the terrible number of toddler drowning deaths.
A key focus for the Keep Watch program in 2011 is to urge all pool owners to check their home pools from top to bottom. Royal Life Saving has teamed up with partner PoolWerx to develop special fact sheets, a home pool safety checklist and other educational tools.
Bradley warns that "for every drowning death there are approximately three hospitalisations and up to two of those hospitalised children will suffer a permanent brain injury.
"Children should never be left alone when they are in, on or around water and parents and carers should always be within arms' reach of their children. Parents and carers should take children with them if they have to leave an aquatic area.
"Nearly 40% of all toddler drowning happens between 9 and 3pm with a further 37% occurring between 3 and 6pm when parents can be distracted by household duties or as other children arrive home from school."
Royal Life Saving says many people often think that their pool fencing is safe however wear and tear, storm damage or erosion may create weakness in the fence and gate. They also warn that thousands of people leave pool gates propped open which can easily lead to tragedy.
The four central messages of Keep Watch urge people to supervise children when they are in, on, or around water; to restrict children's access to water; to ensure children are water aware and for everyone to know how to resuscitate someone in trouble.
Royal Life Saving also warn that when having a social occasion at home or outdoors near aquatic environments always ensure someone is nominated to be the designated child supervisor.
Bradley adds "the time for action is now. There are way too many people saying I'll get around to checking the fence sometime. Check it now. It's extremely frustrating to have home pool owners sometimes question the need for a pool fence. You have to have a pool fence by law and it has to meet strict safety requirements. All pools have to be fenced in Australia – in every state and territory. There are heavy penalties if you don't comply.
"Nationally consistent home pool fencing legislation will also assist in ensuring pool owners understand what is expected of them.
"A recent move by State and Territory Governments led by Federal Minister for Sport, Mark Arbib to consider adopting a consistent approach, will have a positive impact on reducing child drowning and is strongly encouraged by Royal Life Saving.
"The absolute key to preventing toddler drowning deaths is supervision. Supervision is not an occasional glance. It means if a child is in, on or around water adults must be within arms' reach and actively supervising, all the time. People mistakenly think that if a child gets into trouble they will hear noise and splashing. Sadly drowning is all too often silent and quick – and you may not know something is wrong until it is too late."
Sadly, many drowning deaths occur in the few seconds it can take to open a door or to answer the phone. Active supervision is crucial. The statistics show the most common location where drowning happens for children under five is the home pool or spa. That's why a fence must be installed and it must meet Australian Standard 1926.
Riley says "it only takes a few centimetres of water for a child to drown. Run a check everywhere and look for potential dangers. Please don't leave furniture anywhere near pool fences. Toddlers can use them to get into pools. Please don't leave play toys anywhere near pools or in the bath – they attract children. Nappy buckets should be put out of children's reach and always have a securely attached lid on them. Empty paddle pools once they have been used."
The 2011 Keep Watch program also has the support of the Samuel Morris Foundation. Michael and JoAnn Morris suffered the nightmare in 2006 when their young son Samuel was involved in a drowning incident in their home pool that left him with a severe brain injury and life long disabilities.
Michael Morris from the Samuel Morris Foundation says, "my son was a bright, happy, cuddly little boy until he had a near-drowning experience in our home pool. In our case our son was two when he got into the pool. He shook a faulty panel which came away and gave him access.
"It's a clear warning to anyone about how vital it is to check your fencing. We assumed when we moved in that the fence complied with Australian Standards. We found out after Samuel's accident that this wasn't the case and that our local council had never inspected the pool fence."
Bradley concludes "plants, trees or shrubs growing around the pool should be cut back because young, curious kids often use this to climb into a pool. Always make sure pool chemicals are stored securely out of reach of children. We have no doubt people underestimate the dangers around a home pool and every year this leads to numerous tragedies."
For more information about resuscitation training call your local branch of Royal Life Saving on 1300 RES-Q-ME (1300 737 763).
To find out more visit www.homepoolsafety.com.au
23rd September 2010 - ROYAL LIFE SAVING REPORTS DROWNINGS ON THE RISE
28th August 2009 - ROYAL LIFE URGES BACKYARD POOL SAFETY
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