The swimming pool is, arguably, the whole family’s favourite place during the summer holidays. But since drownings claim the lives of dozens of young children every year, water safety should always be your first priority.
Drowning is considered in the top three causes of unintentional death in young children, especially those younger than five. And experts say that the majority of these occur at home.
Children don’t understand the danger and the risks associated with water. A child can drown in just 30 seconds, in only 4cm of water. And they don’t make any noise while they drown, so you won’t know it’s happened until it’s too late.
Take a look at these six expert tips, to take the danger out of pool-time fun:
1. Set strict rules for safety
Your swimming pool isn’t the only water hazard. Mop buckets, rain-water tanks, water features and ponds are all equally dangerous. So you have to set out very clear rules, to keep your children safe. Take a look:
- Enclose all pools of water around your home. Never leave buckets or containers standing full of water.
- Never leave an older sibling in charge of the younger sibling – not only are they not equipped to handle an emergency situation, but they should not be held responsible for their younger sibling’s safety.
- Children may not play in the bathroom, since there’s the risk that they fall into the toilet or the bath tub (and kids have a knack for falling in head-first!).
- NEVER leave your children in the bath unattended. Use non-slip mats in the bath, to prevent slipping.
- Teach your child that he is not allowed to play around or near the pool without the supervision of an adult. And make sure that whoever is watching the children, is not distracted.
- Don’t assume that your friends and neighbours have the same water safety rules you do! If your children are playing in their homes, make sure their swimming pool area is safe and that your children will be supervised (especially around the pool).
2. Keep the kids out
Your swimming pool (or pond!) should be completely inaccessible to your children. Experts encourage you to add “layers” of protection to the pool, to keep your kids from accessing it. So instead of having either the pool net or the fence, invest in both.
Look for an SABS approved pool fence, with a with a two-handed locking mechanism that’s really tough for kids to open. Make sure the gate is self-latching and springs closed, so it will always shut and lock behind you. Maintain the fence and the gate regularly.
There are also sensors available, which can be installed around the swimming pool area, to alert you when someone has entered the pool area.
You can also purchase and install floating pool alarms. These respond to disturbances on the surface of the water, which trigger an alarm. But remember that a little child could slip into the top step of the pool, and drown without upsetting this sensor.
3. Get the best pool net
The pool net is the simplest way to keep your kids out of the pool, and is often the cheapest option too. But don’t skimp – look for a net that comes with a guarantee and promises a long lifespan!
Buy a net that will not only keep the child out of the water, but will also support your child if he falls onto the net (if the net sags, the child could still find himself submerged enough to drown). Look for a net system that can be fitted and removed by one person. Make sure you check the net often and maintain or repair it if needed. Your net is useless if it’s fraying, tearing or sagging.
And never leave the pool area without first fitting the net over it (and making sure the fence gate is locked behind you).
4. Take your children for swimming lessons
Make sure you teach your child how to survive in water, so if he does fall into the pool, he can get himself to safety. Your child can start taking swimming lessons when he’s as young as six months of age, but you can start lessons at any age.
Look for a certified and qualified training instructor, who can get your kids comfortable and confident in the pool in a matter of weeks. They should teach your child how to survive in an emergency situation, how to float and paddle, how to call for help, and so on. Once basic survival skills are in place, your child can follow a swimming programme to strengthen their swimming skills.
If you cannot afford to invest in specialised classes, don’t be shy – ask the local swimming schools about their outreach programmes, which facilitate water safety lessons for children whose parents don’t have the means to pay for formal lessons.
And if you (or your nanny) can’t swim, make sure you sign up for lessons too!
5. Plan for the emergency
An emergency situation is often overwhelming! Put plans in place to guide everyone in an emergency. For example, make sure your family knows which emergency numbers to dial. Put these numbers on the fridge, along with any other pertinent information, such as your medical aid number, allergies or medical conditions of family members (e.g. epilepsy). You can also list the details of neighbours who can be called on to help.
6. Learn to save a life
Complete a Basic Life Support or Bystander CPR Course. This equips you with the knowledge and skills to save the life of a child (or anyone, really) in an emergency situation. Find a CPR training provider who’s accredited and reputable (the Resuscitation Council of South Africa can point you in the right direction). The training provider should update its courses and practices constantly, in line with international best practice. And they should also maintain and service their equipment often, so you get the best possible educational experience.
Once you’ve got all of this in place, you can enjoy your swimming pool safely and happily!