Dubai: The case of a four-year-old Emirati boy drowning in the swimming pool of a Sharjah school last fortnight has once again sparked concerns over pool safety.
Not without reason. Accidental drowning is the second-biggest killer of children in the UAE, topped only by road accidents. Of late, it has snuffed out the lives of several young children in supposedly safe places like schools, homes, hotels and health clubs.
During Ramadan this year, a one-and-half-year-old girl and her two-and-half-year-old cousin drowned after falling into a swimming pool at a villa in Mirdif while their families were having iftar.
Days later, another child died in a building pool in Sharjah while yet another met the same fate in Al Ain. As it turned out, the three-year old had sneaked out of the room without his parent’s knowledge.
In Abu Dhabi, seven people drowned this year. Most of the 14 who drowned in the capital last year were kids, like the four boys aged between 10 and 12 years who drowned in Al Bahia on the city outskirts.
Drowning accounted for 14 lives in Dubai last year. Most victims were kids.
Swimming pool safety experts said, parental neglect and lack of supervision at pools are the main reasons behind these tragedies.
“Parents should teach their child to swim as early as possible,” said David Thorne of Dubai-based pool safety fence company Baby Secure. “This will help them understand the risks and improve their chances in case of an accident.”
Thorne also urged parents not to leave toys or objects in the water which children might want to retrieve.
Paul Peters of Aqua Net said all pools should be fenced and kids shouldn’t be allowed near a pool unless they are accompanied by adults.
Agnel of MAK Pools said all pools must be fenced under Dubai Municipality laws. “We provide a wide range of safety equipment but there’s no subsitute to adult supervision,” he said.
“A moment of neglect could be a lifetime of regret,” said another pool safety expert.
In order to jolt parents into a realisation that their carelessness can cost lives, Dubai Police released a chilling cautionary video dubbed ‘Your Children are Your Responsibility,’. The 30-second video shows how a little girl drowns in a pool after slipping out from a room where her mother is busy socialising.
It was this oversight which nearly killed a three year old who wandered away from his room and toppled into a pool in Dubai’s Motor City in June 2018. The boy had stopped breathing. Fortunately, someone called for an ambulance and he was resuscitated.
Last February, a seven-year-old also had a miraculous escape when he fell into a pool in Springs 11 and lost consciousness, only to be pulled out by a boy in the neighbourhood.
However, there was no such luck for the Emirati child who drowned in the pool of the Australian International School in Sharjah earlier this month.
Municipality rules about swimming pool safety equipment and lifeguards continue to be violated with impunity across commercial and residential buildings.
An earlier Gulf News report revealed how watchmen and security guards do lifeguard duties at pools. Forget having CPR and first aid certification — many don’t even know how to swim.
Did you know?
If your building swimming pool is unguarded, bring it to the notice of your management. A prudent management will listen to your concerns and implement safety measures. If it doesn’t, report the matter to Dubai Municipality at 800 900.
Pool safety tips for parents
- Never leave your child unattended near a pool.
- Supervise. There’s no substitute for parental supervision.
- Never leave your child near a pool in the care of someone who cannot swim or can’t assist someone in trouble.
- Ensure that the pool is safe and fenced.
- Maids should not be supervising children if they are unable to swim.
- Make sure your phone has the emergency number as a priority. It is 999.