In the wake of a shocking video shared across Facebook showing a toddler scaling and opening a locked gate in just seconds, an expert (and dad) warns that vital pool fences are just one part of the child safety equation.
False sense of security?
The above video, posted by Adelaide mum Wendy Atkinson, was circulated on Facebook pretty widely over the weekend.
It shows Wendy’s nimble toddler scaling a gate twice his height and unlocking the tricky mechanism in seconds, allowing the gate to swing open.
Wendy posted the clip to highlight just how insecure some gates and fencing can be, when there’s a determined child involved.
“This video shows he can scale and open the gate in 21 seconds unassissted – no chairs, tables or bikes to stand on,” Wendy wrote.
Where there’s a will
While the gate in the clip was not a pool gate and did not have the optimal type of locking device, nor open outwards, the clip shows just how quickly and stealthily kids can gain access to out-of-bounds areas.
Indeed, experts say we need to rethink and broaden the conversation around kids and pool safety. Wendy’s post is a great reminder of and catalyst for that.
— News Breakfast (@BreakfastNews) January 15, 2017
Fatalities and near misses
While pool fencing is paramount in the fight against child drownings, there are other child safety approaches and risks every parent must consider, and there is more to the pool accident toll than the regrettable and tragic fatalities we’ve seen on the news recently.
Hundreds of Australian children experience non-fatal drowning (near-drowning) incidents each year, as The Samuel Morris Foundation’s Michael Morris can attest.
Michael’s own son, Samuel, almost drowned in the family’s backyard pool in 2006 when he was just 2-years-old. Samuel was pulled from the water alive, but suffered a brain injury that left him disabled. Sadly Samuel died eight years later, in 2014.
Michael established The Samuel Morris Foundation aiming to prevent child drownings and near-drownings, and support the families of children disabled by near-drowning incidents.
The foundation says a quarter of Australian kids admitted to hospital for a non-fatal drowning will experience some kind of brain injury, resulting in life-long disability.
No magic bullet
Speaking to the ABC’s Breakfast program this morning, Michael Morris urged parents to be vigilant around pools, even if they are properly fenced.
“Nobody has ever claimed that pool fencing is child proof and it is … designed to stop children getting access or delay their access to the swimming pool.”
While there is absolutely no doubt that pool fencing laws have resulted in a huge drop in backyard drownings – a 50 percent decrease since fencing legislation was introduced, Michael says we need to broaden our focus to keep our kids safe.
“There is no one magic bullet solution to preventing our children from drowning,” he told the ABC.
“We’re always encouraging people, whenever children are in or around the water, to keep their eyes on them. To make sure that very young children are within arm’s length.”
Michael says there are a number of things parent can do to keep their kids safe around backyard pools, amongst them:
- Scan the backyard for items children can climb on (and use to bypass fencing and gates) and remove them
- Put child-enticing pool toys away, out of sight, after use.
- Closely and actively supervise your kids when they are in the pool
- Enrol your child in swimming and/or water safety lessons.
- Undertake first aid training if you are a parent or carer.
“Pool fencing is one safety element, but it has to be combined with a number of others, and first and foremost amongst those is effective adult supervision.”