Dubai: As the temperatures begin to rise, residents often hit the swimming pool, waterparks or beaches to enjoy the summer. However, swimming safety is critical to ensure you protect yourself and your family while enjoying a well-deserved break.
When it comes to children, the UAE’s laws make it mandatory for parents and guardians to ensure their safety.
In an advisory issued by the Ministry of Interior (MOI) earlier this year, parents and families were asked to adhere to basic swimming safety rules and reminded that protection of children has been ensured through the UAE’s laws on child protection, which exposes parents and guardians to penalties when one of their children is exposed to danger.
“This makes it imperative that the home owner abide by the safety and prevention requirements in swimming pools to ensure that the lives of his children are not risked,” the statement read.
Federal Law No. 3 of 2016 concerning child rights, also known as Wadeema's Law, stresses that all children must be provided with appropriate living standards, access to health services, education, equal opportunities in essential services and facilities without any kind of discrimination. The law protects children against all forms of negligence, exploitation, physical and psychological abuses.
The Ministry also shared basic rules of swimming safety that people should follow to stay safe. So, if you are headed to the pool or a beach, here are some steps that you can take to make sure everyone stays safe.
1. Take the time out to learn how to swim
The first step to preventing any swimming mishap is to learn how to swim. This is also the first rule of thumb for Sameh Mohamed, who is the head coach of Dubai-based Kafou Swimming Academy.
“The first thing to keep in mind is education – to avoid accidents you should stay away from them by learning how to swim properly,” he said.
Swimming classes are offered across the UAE, to children as young as six months old so whether you are a child or adult, enrolling in a swimming course is the best way to ensure you are aware of basic safety tips.
2. Learn to save lives
If you wish to go the extra mile and receive training in first aid and Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR), there are organisations in the UAE that offer these courses, too. However, according to Luke Cunningham, co-founder and Managing Director at Blue Guard Middle East, before enrolling in a course, you should confirm if the training centre is approved.
“Parents and individuals who often spend time at the beach or by the pool, should get certified in CPR and first aid. Normal first aid and CPR courses take around six to seven hours to complete. Before you enrol on a first aid course, make sure the training centre is approved. All training centres in Dubai must be approved by the Dubai Corporation For Ambulance Services (DCAS),” Cunningham said.
3. Never leave children unsupervised
According to the UAE Civil Defence, children should not be allowed to swim without the presence of a person able to watch them well, and save them in the event of a drowning incident. So, make sure children are never left unattended, even for the shortest period of time.
Children should always be supervised by a guardian or parent. Young children might slip into the swimming pool and may not be able to stand up, or they might hit their head. Parents should always be present to supervise their children.
“Children should always be supervised by a guardian or parent. Young children might slip into the swimming pool and may not be able to stand up, or they might hit their head. Parents should always be present to supervise their children,” Mohamed said.
4. Fencing a pool is critical
For swimming pools at home, MOI advises homeowners to install high-quality safety barriers around pools or cover the swimming pools with nets. Always close the fence door when leaving, even if the pool is empty, to prevent children from falling and injuring themselves.
5. At public places, always ensure lifeguards are present
“Only swim when lifeguards are on duty. They are there to keep you safe and are professionally trained to help in case of an emergency,” Cunningham said.
Rip currents are very dangerous and can be hard to identify, they quickly drag swimmers out to sea. If it is your first time at the beach, make sure you ask the lifeguard where it is safe to swim. As for swimming pools, some of them do not have shallow areas, so be aware of these before entering.
6. Make sure the water is safe
Whether you are swimming on the beach or at a pool, always check the swimming area to ensure the water is safe. If you are not sure whether the water is safe to swim, always ask the lifeguard on duty. This is particularly important to check for rip currents at beaches, which are strong, narrow currents of water, which cut through the regular currents at a perpendicular angle and move directly away from the shore.
“Rip currents are very dangerous and can be hard to identify, they quickly drag swimmers out to sea. If it is your first time at the beach, make sure you ask the lifeguard where it is safe to swim. As for swimming pools, some of them do not have shallow areas, so be aware of these before entering,” Cunningham said.
7. Watch out for the red flag on beaches
At the beach, authorities clearly mark the areas that are safe to swim.
“You will see floaters across the perimeter of the area that has been marked as safe to swim. Always swim within that area. Also, it is best to swim closer to wear the lifeguard is stationed. Keep the beach timings in mind, which will be clearly mentioned on signboards. Look out for red flags that have been put up – either at the lifeguard’s post or at different places along the stretch of the beach. These are put up by authorities to warn swimmers to stay away from the water when it is not safe,” Mohamed said.
8. Life jackets are essential
With air pockets in between the two layers of water-resistant fabric, life jackets help make sure that a person is always buoyant. So, always wear a life jacket to ensure safety, whether you are going to the beach, lake or pool.
“Never depend on inflatable floaties and toys. They are designed to entertain – not to save lives,” Cunningham added.
9. Avoid going swimming after a heavy meal
Mohamed also advised people to not eat or drink too much right before going for a swim, as a heavy meal could make you lethargic.
“We usually advise people not to eat something heavy at least two hours before any physical activity, especially swimming,” he said.
10. Never test the water with both your feet
Mohamed spoke about how children are trained to always check the depth of the water by dipping one foot into the pool.
“Some children are not aware of how deep the swimming pool is and can’t see the shallow area. They might directly go into the deep end of the swimming pool. This is why we ask them to always check the depth of the water with one foot. If you can’t reach the floor, you can pull yourself out more easily,” he said.
999The number to call in case of any emergency in the UAE
11. Look before you dive
Swimming experts also spoke about how it is common for children to try to dive into the water, without realising how deep the water is. Diving into the shallow end can lead to serious physical injuries and even drowning.
What do I do in case someone is drowning?
If you follow the safety guidelines mentioned above, you would always be swimming close to a lifeguard, who is well-trained to save people from drowning and also administering CPR.
MOI also urges people to immediately call 999 in case of any such emergency.
Cunningham also advised people to call the police or rescue services for help. However, he also provided some basic first aid tips that people should keep in mind when headed for a swim:
Look out for others: Always ensure to help others too, call for help when someone is in trouble. Never try to rescue alone.
“Reach and throw – don’t go!”: Never try to save anyone by jumping in yourself, especially if you do not have basic training; that could put two people at risk. Throw them something that floats, or grab a pole that reaches them. At most public swimming pools and beach’s there are life rings readily available in case of an emergency.
Look out for others: Call for help when someone is in trouble. Never try to rescue alone.