A combination of the holiday season, extreme heat and alcohol has created the perfect storm for drowning deaths in NSW.
Although any person of any age can drown, the statistics for males are sobering.
According to the 2016 National Drowning Report by the Royal Life Saving Society of Australia (RLSSA), 83% of the 280 people who drowned in the 2015-16 financial year were males.
Port Stephens is paradise for water enthusiasts, but Hunter Regional Manager of Royal Life Saving NSW Tanya Brunckhorst urged men to seriously consider their safety at all times and the decisions they make in relation to boating, fishing and swimming.
“We see higher levels of alcohol consumed and basically a disregard for safety equipment such as life jackets.
In some cases men are ignoring weather warnings and venturing out into rough conditions,” Ms Brunckhorst said.
The highest risk group is males between 25 and 34, but under fives drowning in pools is also a huge concern.
“Drowning is silent and happens very quickly.
Everyday distractions such as going inside to turn off the oven can lead to irreversible tragedies,” she said.
“Last summer 14 children lost their lives to drowning in backyard pools.”
Tomaree Aquatic Centre is a partner pool with the Royal Life Saving Society and conducts the RLSSA Water Smart Program.
The next program runs from 16-20 January and includes a 30-minute swimming and water safety lesson for five consecutive days.
In partnership with RLSSA, Tomaree Aquatic Centre also operates the Keep Watch program.
Centre Manager Suellen Goyne stressed the importance of parents staying within an arm’s reach of children under five.
“Lifeguards aren’t babysitters,” Ms Goyne said.
“The mobile phone culture is an issue; parents get distracted.”
For under fives and non-swimmers, a parent or guardian needs to be in the water at all times and within an arm’s reach of the child.
The pool issues yellow wristbands for under fives and orange wristbands for non-swimmers, which act as an alert and reminder to parents and guardians, as well as pool lifeguards.
WATER SAFETY TIPS
Keep Watch Program Advice:
· 0-5 year-olds and non swimmers: Parent or guardian needs to be in the water at all times and within an arm’s reach
· 6-10 year-olds: Constant active supervision. Parents and carers must be prepared to enter the water with this age group
· 11-14 year-olds: It is recommended that parents regularly check their child by physically going to where they are in or around the water
· Restrict access to water e.g. if you have a backyard pool, make sure it is compliant
· Supervise young children at all times around water – always within an arm’s reach
· Enrol your children into swimming lessons
· Parents must learn CPR
· Always wear a life jacket while out boating
· Avoid alcohol around water
· Never swim alone
· Over 65s: Have medical checks done prior to taking up swimming or recreational activities in and around water
· Follow weather warnings
By Jo FINN