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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 22 June 2018

Swim safety message vital after yet another drowning incident

Swimming instructors and water safety experts have called for improvements to public and private swimming areas, and for non-swimmers to learn

Adult men learn how to swim at an Absolute Swimming Academy class in Dubai. Christopher Pike / The National
Adult men learn how to swim at an Absolute Swimming Academy class in Dubai. Christopher Pike / The National

The tragic drowning of four young boys at an Abu Dhabi farm has once again highlighted the importance of swim safety and the need for tighter controls around open water.

The latest incident involving the deaths of Harbi Al Braiki, 12, Aseel Al Wejeeh, 12, and brothers Younes, 10, and Yahya Al Qodsi, 11, has raised questions about why the open water basin at the farm in Al Bahia was not properly fenced off.

It is just months since swimming instructors and water safety experts united to call on improvements to public and private swimming areas to help prevent such catastrophes.

Chris Kelly, a British swimming teacher who visits the UAE to work with schools in an advisory role, has called on tighter security around community pools.

Many of the pools where Mr Kelly has conducted private swimming lessons are unattended, or run by unqualified attendants, he said.

Speaking in April, Mr Kelly recalled the recent rescue of a young girl he made, as the child was swimming alone and got into difficulty.

“It was just a 20-metre pool but that size pool is found all over Dubai,” he said. “The incident made me think about the regulations here in Dubai. I was just happy this kid was safe.”

Every year, about 400,000 people globally die as a result of drowning.

A scheme to train more pool attendants in water-rescue skills, first aid and internationally recognised lifeguard skills was launched in 2015 by the Abu Dhabi Quality and Conformity Council.

Adults unable to swim have also been encouraged to learn and to encourage their children to have lessons and become more confident in the water as well.

One of those is Taghred Chandab, an Australian mother of four who made the decision to learn to swim before her 40th birthday earlier this year.

Mrs Chandab set aside a childhood fear of water after nearly drowning as an 8-year-old, and learnt to swim with the Absolute Swimming Academy UAE, determined not to pass on her fears to her children.

“We are around so much water in this country and it’s so important to know how to swim,” she said earlier this year. “There are pools that are not protected and kids jump in the water. “They are fearless.”

Although some hotels and community pools have strict safety measures in place, there are plenty that don’t across the UAE.

At Nakheel developments, for example, all swimming pools are manned by at least one lifeguard at all times when the pool is open for use.

Lifeguards operate a strict duty rotation system to help avoid fatigue, with regular breaks every four hours or so. Staff are trained internally to a high standard with rescue skills and CPR refresher courses completed every three months. It is a similar scene at community pools run by Emaar, with all lifeguards trained professionals.

“All our lifeguards rotate their shift every 15 days, and are moved across different pools every month to gain in-depth operational and customer knowledge,” said a spokesman for Emaar Community Management.