Data reveals July as high-risk month for home-related drownings

More Victorians drown while bathing in household spas and baths in July than any other time of year, new data from Life Saving Victoria has revealed.

Drowning statistics collated since the year 2000 have painted an alarming picture for household drownings in July, with children under 14, and adults aged 25-44 and over 65s at high risk.

Life Saving Victoria manager research and evaluation Dr Hannah Calverley warned Victorians that just because you are in your home, does not mean you should relax your vigilance.

“You may think that if you are at home and do not have a swimming pool, that there is no risk of drowning in your home, but this is a dangerous misconception,” Dr Calverley said.

“Drowning can happen as quickly as 20 seconds in as little as a few centimetres of water, so filled bathtubs or sinks, spa baths, wading pools or even buckets of water can pose a deadly threat, particularly to children.

“Supervision is critically important when children are around any source of water. This means keeping under fives within arm’s reach and under tens in your constant and direct eyeline, without distractions.

“Stopping to check your mobile phone, reading a book or walking away to tend to another child can have devastating consequences, so if your child is bathing, you must be there with them at all times in order to keep them safe.”

After two years of COVID-19 lockdowns, many Victorians are eager to escape the winter chill for a mid-year getaway, so Dr Calverley reminds people who are relaxing in the spa this July that they must not relax their vigilance on water safety.

“During July, particularly with school holidays underway, many people are keen to take a break and put their feet up, but it is important to remember to do so safely and that water and alcohol do not mix.

“Alcohol and other drugs can increase risk-taking behaviour and impact your judgement of dangerous situations after just one drink.

“Drugs and alcohol can also make you drowsy, which combined with a warm spa or bath could lead to you falling asleep and slipping into the water, but not realise due to the effects of alcohol or drugs, so please, save having a drink until after you have finished relaxing in the pool, spa or any other waterway.

Dr Calverley also encouraged Victorians to take precautions to safeguard their homes and families, such as keeping all pools and spas fenced and ensuring the barriers are compliant and regularly maintained.

“When it comes to home pool and spa safety, the best offence is a good defence,” she said.

“Make sure you check your pool or spa fence is in working order and remember that even if your pool or spa is fenced, children must be actively supervised.

“Finally, if you have a pool, spa or bath at home, you need to be prepared for the worst by learning CPR and first aid skills. It could be the difference between life and death, should the unthinkable happen in your home.”

Life Saving Victoria’s warning comes as the 2021-22 drowning toll approaches the 20-year high toll of 2020-21, with 53 reported fatal drowning incidents reported so far.

This is 33 per cent more than the 10-year average for this period.

“This figure is just 13 per cent fewer than the same period last year, when Victoria experienced the worst drowning toll in more than 20 years,” Dr Calverley said.

“While anyone can drown, no one should, so make sure you are making safe decisions in, on and around water, no matter how innocuous it may seem.”

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