KIndians with seahorse marks are not safe swimmers, warns the German Society for Bathing (DGfdB). What should the little masters, and what else should parents be aware of when bathing? We talked about this with Michael Weilandt from DGfdBE and Michael Dietel, spokesman for Baederland Hamburg.
WORLD: How many people drowned in Germany last year?
Michael Weilandt: There were a total of 299 people. This is the lowest number of victims since DLRG registered it in 2000. The majority of victims, 57 percent, belonged to the older age group of 50 years. Unfortunately, there were also 17 children of pre-school and primary school age, although it was still six fewer than in 2020. On the other hand, there was an increase in the number of victims among older children and young people (11 to 20 years) – from 26 in 2020 to 30 deaths per year 2021
WORLD: I assume that all these accidents happened at unguarded bathing lakes …
Weilandt: Not all, but 85 percent of them. Although German swimming pools are among the safest in the world, seven people died in an accident in 2021 despite lifeguards.
WORLD: Why do toddlers who are in danger in the water almost never cry for help?
Michael Dietel: Because they can not. As long as children’s mouths are still above water, they are breathing feverishly, they have literally no air to shout for help. Young children do not wave either, but automatically keep their arms outstretched to both sides in the hope of not going under or being able to hold on to something.
If they then have their head under water, they kick in panic, but not effectively because they do not yet know the necessary movements. In addition, young children lack the necessary buoyancy due to their small lung volume, they sink like a stone. Therefore, we can not say it often enough to parents: drowning often happens quietly and relatively motionless.
WORLD: Is the buoyancy of the swimming aids sufficient to prevent children from drowning?
Dietel: First of all: No swimming aid is 100% safe and non-swimmers must always be supervised. There is even a certain risk with armbands, because not only do they impede arm movements, a child falls into the water with fresh cream on, the bracelets can slip off with lightning speed.
Swimming rings are not without risk either. With them, children can tip forward and can no longer raise themselves. If parents want to teach their children to swim on their own, pool noodles make sense, poolboards are great for practicing leg kicks.
Well-fitting life jackets are best for play on and in the water. Ideally, those who, due to their cut and shape, turn motionless children on their backs and reliably keep their heads above water.
WORLD: Throw them in the lake and let them paddle – that was supposedly how many of the grandparents’ generation learned to swim. Is this just a fairy tale?
Weilandt: Yes, it’s more of an adventure. In our grandparents’ time, there was only one swimming method and it was based on soldier movements, that is, you made tacky, correctly performed swimming movements, where you first practiced on dry land, on the so-called floating rams, then you walked with the line around your stomach into the water. This was copied from the military because for centuries soldiers were the only ones who could swim to some degree.
That changed only with the advent of nudism in the wild 1920s. Kurt Wiessner wrote his book “Natural Swimming Education” for this clientele around 1925. A new way to swim “. He adopted a modern approach to getting used to water, but his ideas first took root in West Germany in the 1980s. How it was handled in the GDR I can not say with certainty.
WORLD: What is the legal situation, are the lifeguards responsible for the safety of the children?
Dietel: Parents are primarily responsible for the safety of their children, they have a duty of care. The operator of an indoor or outdoor pool is responsible for the safe operation of the pool. Of course, this also includes water supervision with appropriate qualifications to respond well and correctly in emergencies.
Lifeguards, however, cannot have their eyes everywhere and monitor individual children. Unfortunately, some parents still believe that. The fact is, however, that every bather is responsible for their children and themselves.
Therefore, parents should always keep an eye on their non-swimming children and ideally be only an arm’s length away from them. In addition, a parent should never accompany more than two children who are unsafe in the water.
WORLD: When do you think children are safe swimmers?
Dietel: Once they have demonstrated the requirements for the bronze mark. This includes, among other things, 15 minutes of continuous swimming, covering a distance of at least 200 meters. The children must also be able to switch from lying to back position and continue swimming without holding on, and be able to pick up an object from two meters of water and complete a jump from the starting block or the 1-meter board.
WORLD: And the seahorse brand?
Dietel: This simply means that their wearers can, among other things, cover a certain distance in a swimming style that is not yet clean and has learned the first methods of self-rescue. It is a motivating middle ground for the kids. But the children only become really safe once they have completed the bronze mark.
WORLD: Parent guides often read that children could drown themselves in puddles, is that scary?
Dietel: No, to drown is a water depth that covers your mouth and nose enough. It can be a few inches, for example, when a small child falls unhappily, hits his head and is dizzy or scared and breathes rapidly. Aspiration of water and “dry drowning” may then occur. Especially for children under the age of five, even small and shallow bodies of water pose a danger – for example, the garden pond or the paddling pool.
WORLD: Should private pool owners secure their pool even though the garden is fenced?
Weilandt: Yes, according to current legislation, private pools or fishing pools must always be secured, even if the private garden is fenced. To put it bluntly: A garden pond must be fenced or covered by a stable net. Mushroom basins must be emptied after use, and rain barrels must be closed with lockable lids. There have been children who fell in their heads first.
WORLD: Many parents worry that the suction systems in swimming pools can suck their children in and pull them under water, what do you say to them?
Weilandt: If a swimming pool is built to standards, it is also safe. It is the responsibility of the pool operator to ensure this safety.
Dietel: And to the pools in Hamburg, I can say that for safety reasons they are built in such a way that fresh water is pumped or forced down into the pool from below and then runs off through the gutter at the top. All this works without extraction systems.
WORLD: Is there any kind of certification for swimming pools that parents can use as a guide?
Weilandt: No, there is no certification for swimming pools in general, including the drain pipes. However, I do know of some hotel chains that get their pool drains checked by experts.