Nothing beats a New Zealand Summer. The beach, BBQ’s, swimming and fun, but every year we lose too many of our precious children to the water.
While we all do our best to pay attention there are a few things that are easy to miss. Lets work together to make sure our children can enjoy splashing around this summer in safety.
By the pool
When there is just one adult present that adult needs to watch carefully and avoid distractions. Never text or look at your phone while young kids are around or in water.
When there are 2 adults by the pool its easy to get chatting, when you chat may look more at each other than the kids. Always face the pool and do not get distracted by talking.
With more than 2 adults are by the pool it can easily become a case where everyone assumes everyone else is watching and this is when tragedies happen. The best plan is to take turns as ‘lifeguard’. One parent is the lifeguard for 15 minutes (or any allotted time) and does not talk to any of the other parents, instead just watches each child carefully.
In New Zealand any pool over 400mm deep must be fenced and comply with the Fencing of Swimming Pools Act 1987. This includes spas and inflatable paddling pools. Never leave chairs/ tables or other things around that young children could use to stand on and climb over the pool gate. Never prop the pool gate open. Put away all toys and flotation devices. and put the cover back on Spa Pools straight away.
Paddling pools: Never leave small children unattended in a paddling pool. Always empty paddling pools straight away and turn them upside down so rain water does not fill them up.
River swimming can be great fun but unfortunately rivers are where NZ has the most drownings. It can be hard to tell how strong a current is or how deep a river is. Even a calm looking river can have a powerful under tow and sudden changes in flow direction. River bottoms are inconsistent, with large rocks and holes. Never let children jump or dive into a river before thoroughly checking the depth. Never let children swim in a river without an adult actively supervising, and an adult must always be within an arms reach of children under 5 years old.
Many NZ Beaches are calm and great for swimming, but even calm beaches have dangers. Some of NZ’s favourite beaches have strong undercurrents and rips that cannot be seen from the shore. Don’t assume because there are no big waves that there is no undercurrent or tow. There can also be holes – creating a sudden drop that makes the water suddenly well over head height.
If a child cannot swim properly or is under 5 they need active supervision in the water at all times, including when paddling in smaller pools of water. Always swim between the flags and keep children under 5 within 1 metre of you at all times.
Just as you teach your child the road is dangerous teach them that water is dangerous and that they must never go near or in water without you. Drowning is silent, you won’t hear splashing or struggling or cries for help, you will have no idea what’s going on unless you look and see.