Spreading the drowning prevention message
The Samuel Morris Foundation is working with the Australian Medical Association, Royal Life Saving Society and KidSafe and the NSW Ombudsman in a joint media event, being held at KidSafe House in the grounds of the Childrens Hospital at Westmead to promote drowning prevention messages to reduce the number of drownings in children.
Message follows release of Child Death Review Team Report
Together we are urging parents with swimming pools in their family home to check that the pool gates and fences are functioning properly. The recently released 2010 Annual Report from the NSW Child Death Review Team shows that almost half of all child deaths from drowning last year tragically occurred in the family pool.
The report found that these children were able to access the pool unsupervised due to faulty pool gates or fences and in all these cases, the gate latch mechanism had failed. Bruce Barbour, NSW Ombudsman and Convenor of the Child Death Review Team said, “As we can see from this report, the potential consequences of a faulty mechanism can be devastating but are also highly preventable. I cannot stress enough how important it is to regularly and frequently check that these safety mechanisms are functioning properly.”
Meeting the Australian Standards
Kidsafe NSW advises that current Australian Standards require all pool gates to have a self-closing mechanism, which allows the gate to return automatically to a closed position without manual force. A manual release is also required to open the gate.
The Protect Your Pool; Protect your Kids video produced in partnership with Samuel Morris Foundation, KidsHealth and the Swimming Pool and Spa Association demonstrates the common faults with pool fences, as well as clearly demonstrating what is required to meet the Australian Standards in relation to pool fencing.
Doctors Call of Parents to be vigilant
AMA (NSW) Councillor Associate Professor Brian Owler said, “It‟s the start of summer and children will be flocking to pools, both public and private, to have fun and get out of the heat. However, parents need to be aware that while they think they have taken the correct precautionary measures to keep their children safe around the family pool, the safety mechanisms themselves could be faulty.”
A/Prof Owler said, “Parents need to do regular maintenance checks of the gate latch mechanisms and remain vigilant in the supervision of their children around the family pool. In addition, the pool gate should never be propped open nor should anything climbable be placed near the pool fence for children to access.”
Reinforcing the KEEP WATCH message
The Samuel Morris Foundation has been involved in the launch of Royal Life Saving’s Keep Watch Program over the past few years, and today the AMA, Royal Life Saving, Kidsafe, the Ombudsman and the Samuel Morris Foundation are all reinforcing the importance of the key Keep Watch Messages;
The Royal Life Saving Society‟s Keep Watch campaign highlights four key actions parents and carers should take to ensure water safety for children in varied situations:
1. Supervise – ensure your child is under your constant supervision while in, on or near water.
2. Restrict access – where possible, place a barrier between your child and the water. In the case of your backyard pool, this means the correct safety fence which completely isolates the pool and has a gate with a self-closing and manual release mechanism.
3. Water awareness – enrol your child in a water familiarisation and safety class, offered by Royal Life Saving. You can also contact your local pool for more information on swimming lessons.
4. Resuscitate – know what to do in an emergency. It is important to know basic resuscitation techniques and call „000‟ for an ambulance as soon as possible.
“Taking these key actions are crucial to ensure the water safety of your children and could mean the difference between life and death,” A/Prof Owler said. “You only need a few minutes to go down the list and check that you are taking the right precautions, including checking the function of your pool gate latch.
“Any child death is just awful, however the NSW Child Death Review Team 2010 Annual Report shows that many of these deaths – and not just those in the family pool – are in fact preventable,” A/Prof Owler said.
“It is therefore important to get the message out that we must do everything we can to minimise the risks for our children around the family home and avoid potentially life-threatening situations where possible.”
Beyond the headlines
The Samuel Morris Foundation is also urging everyone to remember that the drowning tragedy extends way beyond the headlines about death by drowning.
For every child drowning death that you hear about in NSW there are at least another 6 children admitted to hospital after a near drowning and according the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare almost one quarter of these children will experience a brain injury that leaves them with some form of disability for life.
Michael Morris (Managing Director of the Samuel Morris Foundation) said “after the headline these children are often forgotten about. but it is worth remembering that the World Health Organisation has found that the lifelong economic and health consequences of non-fatal drowning are significant and that these injuries are estimated to have the highest average lifetime cost of any injury type. They also have a great impact on families, including psychological consequences for victims, siblings, parents and other care-givers”
“the Samuel Morris Foundation is Australia’s only charity directly supporting children disabled by near drowning accidents. We would love to have the community make us redundant by eliminating drowning deaths and disabilities, but until these important drowning prevention messages are implemented by everyone in the community, we will continue to see the tragic loss of childrens lives and the devastation caused by the disabilities associated with near drownings. We urge everyone to heed to messages and to donate to help us continue to spread the message and support children and their families affected by drowning and near drowning accidents”