Should we really ban backyard pools?

| January 23, 2014

Recently there have been calls to ban backyard swimming pools to reduce drowning deaths. Jasmin Forsyth from Swim Australia says this is not only unrealistic, but also irresponsible.

Is the banning of backyard pools a reasonable suggestion, or just a simple band-aid approach, without addressing the real issue?

At Swim Australia we believe that the prohibiting of such an aquatic option – something generations of Aussies have grown to respect and enjoy – is irresponsible and could lead to considerable ramifications.

We also fear that this action could further backfire and lead to parents feeling less compelled to enroll their kids in swimming lessons, due to the risk’s removal.

Fact is: Water hazards exist in and around every home.

While the pool is of concern, people forget about drink coolers filled with melted ice, buckets stored with water or other liquid, empty garden pots that have filled with rainwater, in ground fish ponds, and even water features.

Should we ban every water hazard, in and around the home, just in case? The realistic answer is no! Take proper precautions, and the risk is reduced.

Every day we teach our kids how to be safer – don’t touch the toaster, don’t chat to strangers, watch out for cars, wear a helmet, cross at the traffic lights, don’t enter the pool unless you’re with an adult …

By teaching kids to swim from as young as four months, helping them attain water safety skills, and by applying four very basic Layers of Protection, drowning can be prevented.

Swim Australia has created the vital Layers of Protection, to help better educate and protect families from drowning tragedies. These four elements must be applied together, wherever water exists:

  • Be Aware: Maintain constant supervision by an adult and remain within arm’s reach at all times.
  • Be Secure: Keep gates locked up tight and ensure pool fences comply and are in good working order.
  • Be Confident: Learn to Swim and how to get to safety.
  • Be Prepared: Always have a plan in case of an emergency and know how to perform CPR if required.

Nearly every time we hear of a drowning and learn the cause of the incident, it’s amazing how many times it could have been prevented, if only the Layers had been applied. Drowning can happen to anyone, anywhere and within seconds. But by applying the Layers of Protection and utilising them effectively, drowning can be prevented!

The art of learning to swim, however, is not only a wonderful life skill, but a holistic exercise – physically, mentally, socially and emotionally.

As children progress with their swimming lessons, skills learned can help strengthen the bond between parent and child and potentially enhance a child’s concentration, behaviour, confidence and physical coordination.

In a recent study, the Griffith Institute for Educational Research revealed that children, who had learned how to swim from a young age, reached many developmental milestones earlier than other same aged children, who had not.

These milestones included visual-motor skills such as cutting paper, colouring in and drawing lines and shapes, mathematical-related tasks, and literacy and numeracy.

As Australia is continuing to swelter through summer and Aussies are flocking to the water – to cool off, play and relish in our aquatic culture – now is NOT the time to be discussing the banning of backyard pools. Is it ever?

Instead, we should be encouraging the use of supervised home pool play, applying the four Layers of Protection, and reinforcing the importance of proper water education. This is the real issue, and this is the proactive answer to reducing drowning deaths.