Keep Watch and keep children alive

9 December 2015
As the Christmas and school holidays approach more children will be spending time around pools, rivers and other water bodies, which means it's vital for parents and carers of children to remember the key principals of our Keep Watch toddler drowning prevention program.

Today Royal Life Saving Society WA has launched its Keep Watch program for the summer, reminding the community of the potentially fatal risks of leaving children unsupervised around water.

A new report reveals that drowning remains the leading cause of preventable death in children under five years in Western Australia, with 40 children drowning in our state between 2003 and 2013. Over the same period 326 children were admitted to hospital following a non-fatal drowning incident, many of those suffering serious life-long health consequences including brain damage.

Water around the home continues to pose the greatest risk to children, with 90% of fatal drowning cases occurring in and around a child's own home or that of a family member or friend. Home pools accounted for 40% of drowning deaths, with baths the second most common location (17.5% of incidents). Other common drowning locations included fishponds, paddling pools and farm dams.

Lauren Nimmo, Senior Manager, Health Promotion & Research at RLSSWA says "WA's pool fencing legislation is among the strongest in the country but pool barriers are only effective when they are correctly used and maintained. The main issues identified in the report included gates being left propped open, gates not being self-closing or self-latching and gaps being present beneath the fence or gate that a child was able to slip through. We encourage all pool owners to take the time to check their pool fences and fix any problems ahead of summer."

In all cases examined in the report there was a lapse in adult supervision, ranging from two minutes to two hours. Lauren Nimmo says "the majority of drowning deaths occurred following 5-10 minutes of absent supervision. In many cases they occurred in the short time when parents were performing household chores or children had been left temporarily in the care of an older sibling. It doesn't take long for a tragedy to occur and parents with young children need to be aware of the potential consequences."

This summer, the Keep Watch program will continue to raise awareness of drowning risks and educate parents and carers about the simple steps they can take to keep their children safe from drowning. Lauren Nimmo says "It's vital that we continue to remind the community of the risks of drowning and the actions they can take to prevent it. Everyone who cares for children needs to keep close watch around water, prevent children's access to pools and other water bodies, enroll children in an Infant Aquatics water familiarization class and enrol learn CPR."

A video promoting our Keep Watch message can be viewed here.

A video telling the stories of our three Keep Watch ambassadors, who represent the three possible outcomes of a toddler drowning incident can be viewed here.