­Dark side to summer fun

December 07, 2023

­Dark side to summer fun

A warning to all pool owners

Laughter, dive bombs, Marco Polo, lemonade ice blocks, sunburn, lying on the hot concrete, crinkled fingers.  We can all remember those long summer days in the family pool as a child. A happy place where favourite childhood memories were made.

Yet the swimming pools are identified as dangerous areas for our children.
Fifty-two per cent of all drownings in Australia happen in swimming pools. Children under five are the highest risk of unintentional fatal drowning.* Sixteen children drowned last year, many could have been prevented.

Deb Herde, deeply affected by two drowning incidents throughout her life, sought to channel her passion for water safety after having her own child. She became a certified pool inspector eight years ago and since then her mission is to build awareness about the risks of pool ownership and developing pool owners’ skills in ensuring they create a safe environment.

“A child drowning is something that never leaves you,” says Deb. “There’s no panic or big splashes to warn you something is wrong. When I was young, a neighbour lost their little one after a gate was propped open at a party. The dread and pain the family went through has never left me. A family is changed forever by such a traumatic event. It led me to be ardent about the prevention of home drownings.

“Prevention is simple and effective, but with the rise of distractions in our lives families have become more blase about pool safety. We check our kid’s car seats nearly every day we put them inside a car, but when do we make time to check our pool perimeter and gate?”

Deb notices rental properties seem to be the most dangerous pool areas, and asks landlords to invest in ensuring their properties are safe for tenants before anyone moves in. “It’s a landlord’s responsibility to ensure the pool area is safe or close it for use. A tenant should complain immediately if they do not feel the area is safe.”

Families without kids or grown-up children can become blasé to the idea a neighbour’s child could enter the area, says Deb. Yet ‘unintentional entry’ into pool areas is the action most common prior to a pool drowning.* D&D Technologies conducted research with pool owners across Australia and discovered 25% of parents said there has been an incident of a child accessing the pool area without permission.

Deb hopes to reduce drowning statistics by preventing unintentional entry with secure backyard pools and increasing our supervision of children in or near pool areas.

“We have the stats on fatal drownings but know hundreds of near drownings, accidents, or emergencies also occur every year. As a society we’re more distracted. I beg you, stop scrolling, put down your phone and become my check mate and always supervise your children in the pool!”

Here is Deb’s list of areas we need to prioritise before the pool season is in full swing.
  • Maintenance matters: Maintain your pool gate safety checking routine all year: Check all the gates regularly; do they close automatically? If you are a tenant do your own audit of the pool and its safety.
  • Check Mates: Ask neighbours and other families to check pool areas where your child could have access to. Eighty-five per cent of survey respondents are worried about the safety of their children swimming in other people’s pools. 
  • Before the swim fun begins: Before you open the pool area for fun, set it up so everything you need is in there. Towels, sunscreen, goggles, snacks…so you don’t need to run back and forth from the pool.
  • Vigilance is key : Supervise your children in the water at all times. Sit and watch them play. Even better, get in the water and actively supervise. Thirty per cent of families have experienced a pool-related injury or emergency — accidents that could be avoided with more supervision.
  • Gate protocol: There’s no excuse to have a gate open. If you own a pool, never prop a gate open for children to run in and out, or to clean a pool. Our study found that 55% of pool owners prop open the gate for these reasons and it’s a dangerous habit that could cause the accidental death or injury of a child or loved one.

Let's heed Deb's urgent call to action, prioritising pool safety to prevent tragedies. Together, we can ensure a summer filled with joyous memories, free from the devastating impacts of pool-related accidents.

Go to Pool Gate Safety Checklist