Drowning is a Silent Death
I always thought I would know if someone was drowning- I’d hear the yells and see the splashes and waves for help. So imagine my surprise when I recently discovered that is not so. Drowning is a silent death - the person physiologically unable to call for help and the yelling, splashing and waving rarely occurring.
Drowning is a silent death. Does this explain the statistics that seem outstandingly incomprehensible? Such as, for 57% of the incidents during 2012, the victim was with others or bystanders were nearby (Water Safety NZ, 2012 Report). Or that most victims never intended to get wet. This means they didn’t plan to drown that day. Like most startling statistics, we glide over them without processing or taking action. No one plans to drown but are we actively doing enough planning to ensure we, and those whom we love, do not drown.
Surprisingly, despite New Zealand having one of the worst drowning rates in the world, the New Zealand curriculum does not have learn to swim as an objective. Less of a surprise is research from 2010 which showed 80% of all 10 year olds in New Zealand could not swim well enough to save themselves ( recommended 200m by Water Safety NZ).
Fortunately in the Rodney area a large number of schools are undertaking the water safety programme offered at Northern Arena. Being able to buy time, be it a toddler hanging on to the side of a pool, or a teenager floating on their back as a rip carries them out to sea, until help arrives can mean the difference between life and death. What heightens the recent Lake Tarawera tragedy where a father and daughter lost their lives, was the fact that the emergency services arrived just two minutes too late.
There is no doubt that the ability to swim is one of the most important factors in preventing drowning occurring. However. Northern Arena Director, Mark Saunders, warns that parents must not become complacent. Regular swimming lessons and holiday programmes are only part of a process of developing fitness and skills to assist with becoming safer in the water. The rest of the process is dependent on parents reinforcing the safety practises and knowledge the children have acquired. He urges parents to have regular discussions with their children about water safety and to go over the Northern Arena Water Safety Checklists. He recommends getting the children to recite the checklists until they have the knowledge firmly implanted in the front of their memory. The final step is ensuring that this knowledge is regularly refreshed and ready for instant and accurate recall if needed.
If parents are planning for their family members not to drown, then they too, need to develop and maintain their own level of fitness and swimming skills. How capable are you of assisting with a rescue, perhaps of your own child or their friend? Have you swum 200 m in the last 12 months? When in social situations, particularly barbeques, are you prepared to resist the alcohol influenced “They’ll be fine- they’re old enough to look after themselves” assurances of your friends and actively supervise the children in the pool. Contrary to popular belief, over 85% of children who drown in pools either lived in the home or were invited there as guests. Remember drowning is a silent death- you will not be alerted by the yells for help or the splashes.
Parents’ Water Safety Checklist
Print out and pin the checklist to the fridge here
- Do my children know how to buy time in an emergency?
- Could I assist with a rescue?
- Have I swum 200m in the last 12 months?
- Are all preschoolers within arm’s length and view of an adult?
- Is there constant and vigilant supervision by an adult?