Following the drownings and near drowning in Hartbeespoort the past two weeks, the community is urged to be water-safe and ensure their children are safe around water at all times.
The NSRI has called on the Basic Education Department to include water safety, swimming and first aid lessons as part of the school curriculum.“Each year in South Africa there are approximately 1 500 fatal drownings of which 450 are children,” says NSRI spokesperson, Jessica Shelver. Drowning is a leading cause of child mortality with about a third of the fatal drownings being children under the age of 14.
On average, more than one child drowns every day. “The vast majority of these deaths could and should have been prevented. Schools play a pivotal role in preventing drowning through water safety and education. Yet many schools across South Africa do not teach basic water safety skills.”
“Many of these fatal drownings could be prevented if there was a responsible, able bodied person watching the children when they are in or near water, and if they were able to recognise the signs of drowning,” the NSRI says in a statement.
“When people are drowning, all of their energy is going into trying to breathe and staying above water,” says Andrew Ingram, Head of Drowning Prevention for the National Sea Rescue Institute. “They are not yelling for help or waving their hands around. Drowning is often quick, and very silent”.
Parents and care-givers are urged to be vigilant when their children are near water. Most drownings of children under five years of age are at, or near, their home. Special attention should be paid to washing basins, baths, dams, rivers and swimming pools. Small children should not be able to get close to these dangers alone without responsible adult supervision. Older children should also be reminded of the dangers that they face near water.
“The priority is to have somebody dedicated to physically watch those who are swimming, not distracted by their phone or conversations with others. Taking your eyes off children, even for a few seconds, could prove fatal”, added Andrew.Now in the holiday season, parents are urged to be extremely vigilant when their children are around water.
Take heed of these tips and keep your children and yourself safe.
If you can’t, learn to swim and teach your child how to swim but remember that swimming lessons won’t necessarily prevent a child from drowning.
Teach your children the dangers of water. An innocent pool of water can kill.
Never ever leave a young child unattended near water and never make a child responsible for another child – not even for five minutes. Teach children to always ask permission to go near water.
Enforce safety rules. No running near the pool or other water sources and no pushing others under.
If a child is missing, check the water first. Seconds count in preventing drowning or permanent disability.
Never swim while you are intoxicated. Alcohol impairs judgement and unnecessary risks are taken. An intoxicated swimmer will tire more easily, increasing the chance of an accident or drowning.
Do not leave containers filled with water when there are small children around. Many babies drown in buckets or bathtubs.
If you are going to the seaside this holiday –
Before entering the sea, swimmers must take time to watch the waves and must avoid places where there is a strong backwash, obvious rip currents or a danger of being washed onto the rocks.
Only enter where the waves are straight and gentle.
If you experience a strong current, get out of the sea, or at least do not go in deep.
Check with the lifeguards on duty what the surf conditions are before entering the sea.
Only swim in designated areas that are supervised by lifeguards.
If the lifeguards give you directions or instructions from the beach, obey them.
Look out for warning signs and flags – a red flag means it is dangerous to swim.
A red-and-yellow flag means lifeguards are on duty and you should only swim in the area between the flags.
Do not dive into shallow seawater – many paraplegics broke their necks by diving into shallow pools and dams.
Do not swim in river mouths, in dirty water, very early in the mornings, early evenings or after it had rained as shark activity increases in these conditions.