Water Safety

Drowning is a big problem around the world and is the second most common cause of accidental death. New Zealand also has a very high rate of drowning with only road accidents and falls causing more deaths by accident. From 2003-2007 an average of 114 people died annually from drowning and Matt Claridge, General Manager of Water Safety New Zealand, believes that the number of people drowning each year will rise to 180 by 2030. With summer here, people should be aware of the dangers of water as drownings can often be prevented.

Those most likely to drown include men aged 18-35, who are more likely to be involved in high risk activities on the water such as diving, fishing or water-skiing. Senior Sergeant Bruce Adams from the Police National Dive Squad says people should know how to use equipment before taking it out on the water and ACC want people to check the marine forecast and wear a lifejacket.

Young children also have a high risk of drowning with pre-schoolers making up 70% of childhood drownings. Close adult supervision is essential in keeping young children safe around water. Teresa Stanley from Water Safe Auckland says adults should be focused on the child, not reading, talking or texting. It is a good idea to enroll children in swimming lessons so that they have the ability and confidence to swim.

School children used to learn to swim at school but changes to the curriculum and funding pressures mean that schools are not always able to provide lessons and they might not have the facilities to do so anymore. According to Water Safety New Zealand 239 school pools were closed between 2003-2005 so schools may not even have the facilities to do so anymore. Parents should teach their children to swim between the patrolled flags at the beach and to wave their arms in the air if they need help.

This article was contributed by Anita Jones