Be vigilant at all times when kids are near water

Children having fun at Sengkang Swimming Complex.
Children having fun at Sengkang Swimming Complex.PHOTO: ST FILE

Last Friday's report ("Half of drownings involving kids happened in condo pools") brought back memories of my daughter's close shave in a condominium pool when she was of pre-school age.

My experience echoes the comments of Dr Arif Tyebally, deputy head of KK Women's and Children's Hospital's emergency medicine department, that "you can just turn around and suddenly it's quiet and the child is underwater".

My daughter was in a children's pool and I was sitting beside her on the steps when my attention was diverted for a short while - probably less than a few minutes. When I turned around, she was face down in the water. Fortunately, I was just in time to haul her up, and she suffered no ill-effects.

It is not surprising that many drownings occur in condo pools. I have often observed children below 12 years old - with some as young as pre-school age - swimming in my condo's adult pool (1.2m deep) without an accompanying adult.

Their parents or, more likely, their domestic helpers may be sitting around the pool, but it is also possible that the children do not have anybody watching over them.

When I ask the children where their parents or "aunties" are, they sometimes just shrug in response.

In any case, children should generally not be left alone in the pool, unless their parents are sure they have the necessary swimming skills.

We should equip our children with swimming and water-safety skills as early as possible. Perhaps pre-schools can look into this.

Condo residents may also want to consider sending their children for swimming lessons conducted by private swimming instructors in the condo pool. Condos without such services can source for one, to make it convenient for the residents' children to attend swimming classes.

I suggest that at least one security guard in condos be trained in life-saving, with residents informed that such a person is available for help, if needed. Having such a security guard will also make it easier for residents to seek the services of one, at their own expense, when they have pool parties.

Security guards should also patrol the pools more frequently during peak usage times, such as the evenings and weekends.

They should be empowered to advise parents not to leave their children alone in the pools, especially the adult pools, and to remove any young children from the pools if there are no adults watching over them.

Above all, parents and caregivers should be vigilant at all times when their children are near water, as even a moment's complacency can bring about tragic consequences.

Maria Loh Mun Foong (Ms)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 15, 2016, with the headline 'Be vigilant at all times when kids are near water'. Print Edition | Subscribe