Swimming and spa pools are part of our way of life in New Zealand. They provide wonderful opportunities for all the family to gather together and have fun. Unfortunately, they also kill, largely through ignorance.
If you are unaware of the dangers and unprepared to prevent them happening a pool can claim a child's life in minutes.
This country's drowning toll is one of the highest in the developed world. In fact, drowning is second only to road crashes as the major cause of preventable death for pre-school children. Pools and spa pools represent the greatest single danger. Each year around five children under the age of six drown in these pools - that's nearly 40% of all pre-school drownings. There have been more than 120 such deaths since 1980. Yet right now, over 25,000 home pools around the country remain unfenced.
Each and every one is an accident and possibly a death waiting to happen.
As many as 17 children a year used to drown in home pools. The effect of the Act has been to dramatically reduce the annual toll to five.
It is your responsibility as an adult to ensure the children you are caring for are safe. Unfortunately the majority of children who drown are alone and unsupervised, or in the care of other children at the time.
However, even the most vigilant parent or caregiver cannot supervise their children every minute of the day. That's why you need to fence a pool. Because children simply do not understand the dangers.
The only safe environment is one where young children cannot get access to a pool without adult supervision.
Today, all pools are required under the Fencing of Swimming Pools Act 1987 to be fenced to a standard which will prevent young children from gaining access to the pool.
Rural pools are as much of a hazard to children as pools in urban areas. Which is why all pools, regardless of their location, must be fenced in accordance with the Act.
Do Something about Drowning
It's true that since the Act was passed, children have drowned in both fenced and unfenced home pools. But if all these pools, had been fenced in a manner that met the requirements of the Act, many more of these children would be alive today. That means never wedging the gate open - just for a minute, or leaving the ranch sliders unlocked, and always maintaining the fence.
If you own a pool it is your obligation to inform your local Council.
Cut the risks
Fencing is a critically important part of having a safe home environment for children. You can cut the risks even further by:
- Maintaining the fence and gate in good condition.
- Covering the area around the pool with a non slip surface.
- Always supervising children in or near a pool, even if they are wearing flotation aids.
- Clearing away toys and flotation aids when they are not being used.
- Always make sure the gate to the pool is safely shut.
- Making sure children and adults alike understand that they must NEVER prop open the Gate.
- Setting rules of behaviour around the pool.
- Making sure there are no objects near the pool fence which a child could use to climb or stand on.
- Learning first aid and resuscitation.
Water Safety Training
A few basic guidelines from the New Zealand Water Safety Council:
- Supervision by adults is vital.
- Learn CPR so that if an accident happens you may be able to save a life.
- Teach children how to swim as soon as possible and teach them safe water habits.
- In home pool areas the pool fence is the first line of defense. Don't leave gates and doors propped open.
- Doors and gates must be fitted with self closing and self latching devices.
- In your pool area don't leave anything floating in water e.g. toys or ornaments which will attract young children.
- Keep alcohol to a minimum if you are on supervision duty.
- Toddlers move fast - keep your eyes on them.