Vigilance is the only way to prevent drowning
It’s the deadly season of drownings. Sounds terrible, doesn’t it? The bad news is that it’s going to get worse this summer. There will be umpteen drownings across Australia.
I feel sick every time I read - or worse, report - about a child drowning. I know they are always accidents but I also know that the parents are not at arms’ length from the child.
It’s common knowledge that people drown if they put themselves in a risky situation. The simple ways to prevent a drowning are:
a) never go in dangerous, unknown and unpredictable waters;
b) learn the skills of water safety and swimming (if you want to enjoy a lifetime of water fun and fitness);
c) don’t drink and swim; and
d) learn cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).
I’ve heard all the excuses under the sun. “I turned away for a split-second.”
“The phone rang while he was in the bath.”
“He walked onto the pool cover while I was hanging out the clothes.”
“He let himself out the gate and wandered into the dam.”
I know what it’s like to nearly drown. I can still feel the sensation of living with no oxygen, on my way to death in the shallows as a young child.
I will never forget the strong grasp of my saviour. It happened all too quickly. I’ve reported on schoolies mucking around in the surf after a few beers.
It’s a recipe for death - alcohol and water cause about 30 per cent of drownings.
That tells me one in every three drownings is totally avoidable.
Australian migrants - those with little exposure to Australia’s beaches - can often underestimate the power of the surf, the dangerous rips and the varying depths of the ocean floor.
Those who get out of their depth often cannot be saved. A few minutes without oxygen (and lungs full of water) are often too late. Too much internal, physical damage – no chance for reversal.
Parents of drowning victims can often live with terrible guilt. What if I hadn’t reached for the beach towel? What if I knew how to do CPR? What if he had water safety lessons?
Wake up Australian families. Learning swimming and water safety skills should be compulsory from pre-school to Year 9. We need to educate children of all ages of the risks out there.
Drownings should never happen. We need to take ownership and prevent these terrible tragedies.
Another drowning … is one too many.
Julie Tullberg has lectured in swimming and water safety since 1992.
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