Maximise Your Summer Water Safety
Summer is here and the school holidays are almost upon us. While we look forward to the warm sun and the endless hours spent in and around the pool, we must also turn our thoughts to a very serious topic that concerns our families this season: that of summer water safety. Did you know that in South Africa, drowning is one of the leading causes of accidental deaths, with children under 15 – and especially those under 5 – being the most vulnerable? And while these are sobering statistics, the good news is that drowning is almost always preventable – and we at Swimz are here to help you with some summer water safety tips to help you and your family have the worry-free school holiday that you deserve.
Know the Risks
In order to safeguard your family, it’s important for you to understand how the risks of drowning apply to your child. When thinking of drowning risks, you may naturally think of open, deep bodies of water like a swimming pool or the ocean – but the reality is that children can drown in water as shallow as 4cm. This means that a drowning risk could be posed by something as seemingly harmless as a shallow bath or even a bucket of water. Drowning also tends to happen silently and can occur in just 30 seconds, meaning that water safety is of the utmost importance.
Always Supervise Your Child
One of the easiest ways in which to protect your child from harm is to never, under any circumstances, leave them unsupervised in or around water, even if they know how to swim. For young children, this includes the bath (remember the 4cm rule!) – if the phone or doorbell rings while they are bathing, either ignore it or take your child with you to ensure their safety. When supervising your child, make sure that they have your undivided attention at all times. Avoid using your smartphone or other devices at this time, as these could distract you during a crucial moment. If you cannot supervise your child, either make sure that another responsible adult is present to do so, or do not allow them access to the water.
Know The Rules
In order to maximise summer pool fun for everyone, it is important to lay down and enforce pool safety rules – and to make sure that your child understands them. These rules should take into account common summer water safety risks that your child may encounter, and should aim to counter them. We have come up with the below list as a useful guideline for you to use, although you should always use your own discretion when it comes to your child.
- No diving, dunking, dive-bombing, running, or shouting around the pool area – these actions are all risky as there is the possibility of injury (children landing on top of each other or slipping), drowning, and in the case of shouting – distraction to the supervising adult, or raising a false alarm.
- Never pretend to be drowning – We all know the story of The Boy Who Cried Wolf, and this applies to water safety as much as it does to little boys watching sheep. Even if your child is simply playing with their peers, games in which they pretend to be drowning are always unsafe. It is easy for a parent or other adult to mistake the game for a child who is truly in trouble – or to ignore a child who is indeed in trouble, thinking that the child is playing.
- If your child is not a competent swimmer, make sure that appropriate flotation devices are worn – and ensure that you do not rely on these to prevent your child from drowning, as they are no substitute for supervision and correct water safety practices.
- Do not allow young children into the pool without an adult in the water. All children should be taught never to enter the water unless there is a competent adult present to supervise them.
Safety-Proof Your Home and Pool
This is one of the most important, as well as the easiest steps in preventing accidents. Start by identifying potential risks, and then move on to reducing those risks. Your evaluation should also take into account any area beyond your home to which your child may have access – this may include neighbours’, family’s, and friends’ homes in addition to your own.
Around the Home
In addition to supervising your child, safety-proof your home by always emptying baths and water containers when not in use. Make sure that buckets and toilets are covered, and doors to bathrooms and laundry rooms are kept closed. In the garden, any open water (like fish ponds) should be covered or otherwise out of access to children.
Around the Pool
When safety-proofing your pool, your first step should be to install secure fencing around the perimeter, including a latching gate that cannot be opened by curious young hands. While using the pool, never keep this gate propped open. Ensure that your poolside material is anti-slip, and check that your pool cover fits snugly – a pool cover that sags in the middle could present a safety risk to a trapped child, while a pool blanket instead of a cover is an even greater safety risk than an uncovered pool, due to a hisk risk of entanglement to children or pets. Store away pool toys when they’re not in use, so as not to make the area attractive to children who may try to gain entry unsupervised.
Know How to Help
In the event of a crisis, it’s vital for parents, babysitters, or other adults to know what to do. Should a child appear to be in distress, do not hesitate to help. If you need to jump in, try to grab a floating object to help them stay afloat. If you cannot jump in, use a long object (like a pool noodle) and pull the child to safety once they have grabbed on. Encourage the child to stay calm and to focus on you as they follow your instructions.
Keep the numbers of all emergency services on your phone or printed out at the poolside, and ensure that you and other adults involved in your child’s care know basic lifesaving and CPR techniques in the event of a child who has already inhaled water. Should a child go missing around the home, make the pool the first place that you check – this can save precious time and avert disaster if the child has fallen in.
Make Sure Your Child Can Swim
Last but not least, ensure that your child is enrolled in swimming lessons as soon as possible. Doing so adds a powerful tool to your summer water safety preparations, as a child who knows how to swim and knows about water safety is far less likely to drown than a child who does not have this skillset. At Swimz, we offer Moms and Babes classes from as young as 12 weeks. You will join your little one in the pool as they are acclimatised to water and even taught basic water safety, ensuring that they are comfortable and confident when faced with water in the future. This is also an ideal way for new parents to bond with their baby and meet other parents. As they get older, children will be taught more advanced techniques until they become competent little swimmers, where their skills can be kept sharp in one of our fun group classes. Your child’s swimming lessons can continue year-round thanks to our heated pool and air-conditioned facility, and with summer already here – don’t delay. Start your child’s swimming lessons today, and empower them for the rest of their lives.