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Royal Life Saving warns of drowning dangers in inland water

Royal Life Saving warns of drowning dangers in inland water
February 23, 2016

With recent heavy rainfall and flooding across several Australian states, Royal Life Saving has issued a warning to all parents and carers living in rural and remote areas about young children’s risk of drowning.

Figures from the Royal Life Saving National Fatal Drowning Database show that in the last 10 years, 88 children under five have drowned in regional and remote areas of Australia. Water hazards of particular concern include dams, rivers and irrigation channels.

Royal Life Saving Society - Australia Chief Executive Justin Scarr explains “with an increase in the amount of water on the ground and flowing through catchments across NSW, QLD and Victoria, Royal Life Saving are urging parents and carers of children under five in rural areas to be mindful of the increased risk of drowning.

“Now more so than ever, it’s important for people in rural and remote areas to be mindful of the messages of our Keep Watch and Keep Watch @ The Farm programs. Ensure active adult supervision of young children at all times when near the water and establish a Child Safe Play Area on farms and rural properties to restrict a child’s access to water. Learn CPR and refresh your skills annually to ensure you have the knowledge and skills to act in an emergency.”.

Key locations of concern in rural and remote areas include rivers, creeks and streams, lakes, dams and lagoons and other common hazards around rural properties such as ponds, tanks, troughs, livestock dips and irrigation channels. In all drowning cases, adult supervision had temporarily lapsed or was entirely absent.

Through programs such as Royal Life Saving’s Keep Watch @ The Farm, the importance of actively supervising young children around water is highlighted. Whilst restricting a child’s access to water is another key strategy commonly associated with isolation fencing for backyard swimming pools. On rural properties a Child Safe Play Area can be more effective, particularly for aquatic locations that cannot be fenced, such as rivers and dams. Other Keep Watch strategies for reducing child drowning are water awareness and CPR.

Child Safe Play Areas, involve creating a barrier between the child and water hazards. They should be devoid of water hazards, be easy to supervise and contain toys and equipment to ensure they are fun places to play in.

Scarr adds “children under five are the age group most at risk of drowning. Whilst active adult supervision is the best strategy for reducing the risk of drowning, using a child safe play area on rural properties is also a great idea, especially if water hazards on rural properties can’t be fenced, such as dams and rivers.”

With inland waterways, such as rivers and dams, key areas for drowning in young children, Royal Life Saving is also reminding the community of the importance of ensuring they ‘Respect the River’, a public awareness and education program supported by the Federal Government.

Scarr concludes “our rivers continue to claim too many lives in preventable tragedies, including lives of young children in regional Australia. It’s important people Respect the River and follow four simple safety tips: Wear a lifejacket, avoid alcohol around water, never swim alone and learn how to save a life.”

Key Findings

• 88 children under five have drowned in regional and remote areas of Australia between 1 July 2005 and 30 June 2015.
• Key aquatic locations include home swimming pools (41%), rivers, creeks and streams (17%), lakes, dams and lagoons (15%) and hazards on rural properties such as tanks, livestock dips, irrigation channels, ponds and troughs. 
• In all drowning cases, adult supervision had temporarily lapsed or was entirely absent.
• Children under five are the age group most at risk of drowning.

Royal Life Saving’s Summer Drowning Prevention Tips

• Always actively supervise children around water. For more information visit www.keepwatch.com.au 
• Establish a child safe play area on rural properties and farms. This involves creating a barrier between the child and water. Child safe play areas should be devoid of water hazards, be easy to supervise and contain toys and equipment to ensure they are fun places to play in. 
• Rivers are the leading location for drowning every year in Australia. Learn about the risks and safety tips at www.royallifesaving.com.au/respecttheriver 
• Ensure swimming pools are fenced with a correctly installed and regularly maintained pool fence with a self-closing and self-latching gate.
• Learn CPR to ensure you have the skills and knowledge to react in an emergency.
• Be Water Aware, enrol young children in Infant Aquatics classes and set and reinforce rules such as ‘No going near water without an adult. 

Members of the community who want more information on water safety and drowning prevention strategies should go to www.keepwatch.com.au and www.royallifesaving.com.au/respecttheriver 

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