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Should CPR training be compulsory for parents with a pool?

Here’s a question to pose when your dinner party gets a little dull – should it be compulsory for pool owners to do a CPR course every 12 months?

It’s an idea that’s gaining momentum after figures released by Royal Life Saving Australia showed drownings this summer (2018-2019) increased more than 40 percent on last year. How many of these lives might have been saved if more people knew CPR is something we’ll never know, but there are some who believe it may have made a difference and the stats back this up.

Statistics over the past ten years show, in 80 percent of drowning cases involving children aged 0-14, it was a direct family member who discovered the drowning victim.

Consumer watchdog CHOICE have warned against using a Clark Rubber pool fence after it was foiled by a four-year-old boy.

Couple this with the fact a child is 50 percent more likely to survive a submersion incident if someone close to hand starts CPR immediately and you have a pretty strong case for compulsory CPR.

Interested in pool safety? Read about this one-minute job that could save your kid‘s life and how to make your pool fence safe. 

Sometimes even a pool fence isn’t enough to deter kids. Photo: Katherine Plint

“It’s your worst nightmare. In the pool is your baby boy”

April Pools Day – a water safety initiative by my partner Poolwerx, in association with Australian Red Cross, has been created to answer the dire need and encourage more people to take up CPR training.

Let’s just imagine this scenario for a second. You are at a family gathering, there are lots of people milling around everywhere and innocently someone asks where your 18-month-old son is. It’s only about two minutes since you last laid eyes on him but at that moment some unknown force, call it mother’s intuition but you know something is not right and you start looking for him. You are drawn immediately to the pool and that is when your heart stops.

Your worst nightmare confronts you. In the pool is your baby boy.

Immediately you launch into action, you dive in the pool and drag him out. You scream for help, for someone to call an ambulance. You check for a pulse, but you can’t feel anything. You don’t panic, you just dig into the impulse to save your child and hark back to your training and start CPR immediately.

You manage four rounds of resuscitation before the ambulance arrives and takes over. Finally, he splutters to life and brings up a lot of water and you are rushed to the nearest hospital.

That night is the longest of your life, they are testing your boy for all sorts of damage. When the doctor finally enters the room your sense of dread is overwhelming. Miraculously, you are told you he is completely fine and can go home. He congratulates you for saving your son’s life, because without starting CPR immediately the outcome would have been very, very different.

Inseparable friends, five-year-old Junior Austral and three-year-old Jhulio Sariago , drowned together in Townsville’s Ross River. Photo: Townsville Bulletin

“You never know when you might need CPR”

This is a harrowing story, but a true one and a prime example of why legislating CPR is topic to discuss. It happened to a good family friend of ours just last year. Jane, a mother of five, is now imploring other parents to get their CPR training because the reality is you just never know when you might need it. If the government made the skill compulsory it makes the choice easy though, doesn’t it?

Let’s look at it another way. Staff who teach at swim schools must do a CPR course at least once a year. As you’d expect. They’re responsible for kids in the water on a regular basis.

Pool-owning parents are also responsible for kids in the water on a regular basis however they have no onus to undergo training. One gets paid and one doesn’t but that seems a petty difference when you’re talking about a child’s safety.

The intent of suggesting such a change to legislation would be to increase the number of people in the community with current knowledge of CPR – pool owners is a good place to start.

It only takes 20 seconds for a child to drown. Twenty seconds and paramedics can’t help. Photo: TNV

“The idea of a pool without a fence is unthinkable”

When mandatory pool fencing was first introduced in 1992 it was met with moaning, groaning, and some gnashing of teeth, however today the clink of a pool gate is as ubiquitous to an Australian summer as sunburn and mozzie bites. The idea of installing a pool without a pool fence is unthinkable. Could we soon be thinking about CPR training the same way?

A survey conducted by the April Pools Day people found 93 percent of respondents thought CPR training should be compulsory. Now what people say in a survey and what they do in real life are two entirely different things, however the high percentage shows that at least the support for mandatory CPR training is there.

So should we start to think seriously about compulsory CPR training for all pool owners? The April Pools Day people certainly think so. It’s only a couple of hours once a year and it just might save the life of someone you love. Certainly one to think about.

Olympic swimming coach Laurie Lawrence is advocating for mandatory CPR training for pool owners. Photo: supplied

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