As the summer stretches on and swimming pools across the UAE reopen after the temporary lockdown closures, UAE families are flocking to splash and play in the inviting, chilled waters.
But, tempting as it is to relax, swimming pools are one of the most important places for parents to be on their guard, warns the Abu Dhabi Police (ADP). The ADP wants to highlight the risks of leaving children unattended in swimming pools in the UAE, stressing the importance of monitoring them to avoid drowning accidents.
The ADP notes that parental negligence is a key factor in the prevalence of UAE accidents involving children, pointing out that the majority of drowning incidents involving children are caused by families leaving them unattended, as well as the fact that the children cannot swim and due to the absence of barriers around swimming pools.
Drownings are quiet: the need for parental vigilance at all times
Eighteen children have died in Dubai due to parental negligence over the past three years, according to Dubai Police, with drowning being the third biggest cause after electric shocks and sliding door accidents (the figure did not include falls from balconies, which would likely make the number of deaths due to parental negligence much higher).
While many people’s impression is that they might hear if a child is in trouble in the pool because they would be flailing and crying out, in reality most drownings are silent, and it is frequently not obvious that a person is drowning to the untrained observer.
Drowning accidents involving children in pools are among the main causes of psychological trauma for parents and families, adds Abu Dhabi Police. They encourage everyone to follow relevant safety instructions, and stress the importance of installing safety barriers and stairs with metal handles in swimming pools.
Teaching water safety early
Teaching children to swim early is a key element of water safety and something that every parent should prioritise if your family frequently spends time near pools or beaches.
“As soon as babies have had their first injections, they can come into swimming pools and take lessons,” says Lesley Murray, swim director at Speedo Swim Squads. “At this age, it is more about teaching the parents how to work with the child confidently. As the child gets older, we start to children that they need to respect water – they can’t just throw themselves in. We teach them to walk on the poolside, to sit down and enter the pool, to make sure that they are waiting for Mummy or Daddy in the water... so a lot of it is safety.”
Although Murray says that children can be taught to be water-safe – meaning that they can swim a few strokes, catch their breath and continue swimming – from around the age of 30 months, even children who can swim can drown in as little as 6cm of water. This means drowning can happen in a fountain, paddling pool, or any standing body of water that might be around your home in sink or even toilet. Hence, parental vigilance is crucial.