The right steps to prevent children from drowning in private swimming pools

Every year, young children drown in private swimming pools. But with certain preventive measures, many tragedies could be avoided.

While spring this year is particularly summery, some are sounding the alarm. Because if the beautiful days are often synonymous with swimming in the pool, these activities are not without risks for the little ones. In the summer of 2021, about 26% of the drownings involved children under the age of 6, reminiscent of the “drowning survey” from Public Health France. It is even the most affected age category: 285 drowned, of which 20 followed by deaths.

This May, two 3-year-olds have already died in France after drowning in private pools. Laurence Perouème, president of Sauve-qui-Veut, an association committed to preventing drowning in young children, recalls a few safety principles that can save people.

• Secure the pool with a barrier

It is an essential: the security barrier. “It sounds silly, but it’s the first thing to do,” recalls Laurence Perouème, whose 16-month-old son drowned more than twenty years ago in an unprotected swimming pool. She and her association have also fought for the adoption of the 2003 law, which requires private pools to be equipped with a security device. “But unfortunately the law is not sufficiently enforced.”

A barrier, yes, but not just any barrier, she warns. Because a poorly protected swimming pool would be even worse than an unprotected swimming pool, giving an illusory sense of security. To prefer, according to the chairman of Sauve-qui-Veut: devices with a port that has an automatic lock. For without this unity, human error is always possible.

“We leave the keys on it or just forget to close the gate once and it’s too late. We would never leave a child in a house or a garden next to a cliff or a motorway without protection, well the pool is it same. “

Regarding the installation of an alarm, which is activated by a fall in the pool, “why not”, Judge Laurence Perouème. “But it’s inadequate, and it does not prevent the fall.” As for the pool cover or the automatic roller shutter, if in practice she considers them effective, “they do not respond to the problem,” she believes. In the Gironde, a rigid protection covered the swimming pool, in which the child accidentally fell in April, but he would have taken advantage of a moment when the dome was pinched. He approached the water and fell.

“In the summer, the pool is generally open all day. It is very good to cover the pool in the evening, but generally we do it at night, or when the children are already asleep, not between two swims. So it is not very helpful.”

• Learn to swim early

This is Laurence Perouème’s second recommendation: that children learn to swim as early as possible. “From 3 and a half or 4 years a child can learn”, insists the association’s chairman. A dozen sessions is enough, she says. But during the pandemic, swimming lessons were canceled, which worries the representative of this association.

“How many 6 or even 8-year-olds still do not know how to swim !, she worries. The most important thing is not that they know how to dive or swim the crawl, but that they at least know less, how they get on. their back and reach the edge of the pool if they accidentally fall into the water. “

Because drownings often occur outside bathing times when parents are at home, cooking or looking after the rest of the siblings. In the Nordic countries, a 3-year-old boy thus escaped the vigilance of his grandparents. He went to the neighbors’ garden, managed to climb the wooden wall of the swimming pool before falling into the water and drowning. Laurence Perouème insists on the fascination that a swimming pool exerts on a child.

“As soon as children are independent and go, they are curious and thirsty to discover without being aware of the danger. We all too often underestimate their exploratory capacity. They say three minutes is enough, but in reality it is much less than that. “Three minutes is dead or irreparable damage.”

• Parental awareness

For Laurence Perouème, it is urgent to become aware of the danger that a swimming pool poses to a child who is unable to swim. “The key is to raise awareness among as many people as possible. No parent is immune to a moment of inattention, no parent is infallible.”

She evokes the tragedy one of the members of her association has experienced. This father was in the swimming pool of a private club with his son. After swimming, he took the child out of the water, took off his armbands, turned his back to him to look for a towel, and when he turned around, it was too late. However, the child was right next to him.

The speech we hear is: ‘parents just have to take care of their children’. But we do not realize how fast it goes. It only takes a moment, we turn our heads, we take the phone, we remove the eyes from child for a few seconds, or else the father thinks the child is with the mother, and the mother thinks he is with the father, and that’s it.Sometimes children cut themselves, burn themselves with the oven door, hurt themselves, it is impossible to monitor them 24 hours a day, but it’s not serious. is that it does not forgive. “

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