Children drown silently, in mere minutes. Despite the best efforts of parents and caregivers to keep their children safe, drowning remains one of major causes of child death in Australia.
Almost all parents have experienced losing sight of their child in a supermarket, in a park, at a backyard party, or even at home for a couple of minutes. If there is a source of open water nearby, this amount of time is all it takes for a child to wander or fall into the water and drown.
Water features and ornamental ponds
These can be beautiful features in a backyard. Small children also find them very attractive, and sadly, children have drowned in these. Even if you don't have children, water features pose a danger to young children coming to your home. If a water feature or pond holds a few centimetres of water or more, cover it with a strong wire mesh.
Water tanks and water-conservation buckets
Water tanks are large, deep sources of water. They should have properly fitting, approved covers.
With the push to conserve water in recent years, many Australian now save their shower water or grey water. Ensure that any open buckets of grey water are emptied straight away and not left around. After heavy rain, check that there are no sources of open water around the yard - even a ditch.
Some households are using wheelie bins to collect rainwater. The lid of a wheelie bin can easily be opened by a child, and a child can fall head first into a body of water where they cannot even turn their bodies around. Wheelie bins are not safe to use for water collection.
In the bathroom
The number of children drowning in the bath is rising. Babies, toddlers and older children can quickly drown in the bath. Children must be supervised during bath time, and never leave older children to watch younger ones.
Empty baths after use and keep bathroom doors closed at all times. Small children have also drowned in toilets.
In years past where cloth nappies were universally used, there were cases of babies drowning in nappy buckets used to soak the nappies. These days, after an era of disposables, environmentally-friendly cloth nappies are back on the scene. Many cloth-nappy advocates use the dry-pail method, where nappies do not need to be soaked in water.
Blow-up pools, spas and paddle pools
Check pool-fencing regulations before you purchase a blow-up pool. An above-ground blow-up pool poses the same dangers as any backyard pool and need to be secured from children.
A spa is a like small pool - it needs to have a secure cover when there are not adults in supervision.
Toddler paddle pools are great fun for babies and toddlers to splash in. These pools seem like they hold just a tiny amount of water, but toddlers can and do drown in mere centimetres of water. Paddle pools should be emptied after each use.
Swimming pools should have proper fencing and a freely swinging gate that returns itself to a securely locked position.
But even with the best fence and gate, young children can still gain access to the pool by pushing chairs, boxes, small tables, play equipment and other materials over to the fence or gate. It would shock many parents to witness the speed at which their small child can push over an object to the pool fence and climb over. Take special care not to place pot plants, chairs, tables or any other objects beside the pool fence. More information on pool fencing can be found at royallifesaving.com.au
Supervision around water at home
Even with the best intentions, no home is completely child-proof 100% of the time. Supervision is the key. Supervision means an adult having a child within their sight.
Learn First Aid and CPR
Even with the best child-proofing and supervision a parent can manage, life sometimes brings tragedies that could not have been foreseen. If you have a pool, you should know CPR. CPR cannot save a child's life in all circumstances, but in the case that CPR would be the difference between losing your child and your child living, wouldn't you want to have learned it? Read our article about first aid.
Hannah's Foundation provides support for families and friends of drowning victims. It is the only registered charitable institution in Australia for drowning prevention, awareness and family support. The foundation was set up by the parents of two-year-old Hannah Plint, who tragically drowned in her backyard pool on 4 October 2007. Read the story of Hannah and Hannah's Foundation.