Olympian Mack Horton’s pool safety tips
How to keep your kids safe around water this summer.
As the weather heats up and swimming pools beckon, Olympic swimming gold medallist and RACV ambassador Mack Horton has warned parents and carers to take extra care watching children around water.
The 400-metre freestyle champion says a child can drown in as little as 20 seconds. “That’s as long as it takes to choose a song, send a text or dry yourself with a towel, so really, really keep your eyes on them,” he says. “Keeping your family safe around water is your responsibility.”
Young swimmers should never be left alone near water, no matter their skill or confidence level.
The warning comes as the latest data from the Royal Life Saving Society reveals that 507 children under five years of age have died in drowning incidents in Australia between 1 July 2002 and 30 June 2020. About half these deaths occurred in swimming pools, mostly in backyard pools.
And for every child under five killed by drowning, a further eight are admitted to hospital and many suffer life-long health implications.
Life Saving Victoria’s principal research associate Dr Bernadette Matthews fears an increase in drowning deaths this summer because after months of COVID-19 restrictions, many people are unprepared for swimming.
After months in lockdown many children may have forgotten what they learnt about water safety at swimming lessons.
“We are facing a summer where most Victorians have had limited or no exposure to waterways and aquatic recreation in almost a year, so it’s crucial to be prepared before a day out on or around the water,” she says.
Mack, who has partnered with RACV in a Keep Watch pool safety campaign, says after months in lockdown many children may have forgotten what they learnt about water safety at swimming lessons, while parents may need to brush up on their safety routines – especially if on holidays with a pool or near water.
“We need to take it easy and revise how we work around water and how to make it safe for kids,” he says. “It can be as simple as showing children where the pool stairs are and how to get in and out safely.”
He says if there’s a pool at your holiday accommodation, it’s important to read and take heed of pool safety instructions. Every RACV Resort pool, for example, has clear safety procedures, and pool safety is a high priority at each property.
Regardless of whether you’re at home or away, Mack says it is crucial that young swimmers are never left alone near water, no matter what their skill or confidence level.
“Stay within arm’s reach of a young child – it only takes 20 seconds for a child to drown,” he says.