Carmel and Pete Crouch can’t understand why Australian pool standards are still “behind the times”. Their son Adam drowned in a friend’s backyard swimming pool just a few days before his fourth birthday in October, 2007.
“We need to move with the times,” Mr Crouch, of Springwood, said.
Mrs Crouch, who believes more attention is paid to inspecting cars than pools, said: “Swimming is such a big part of Australian life and kids have been drowning for so long but it’s preventable ... we’ve got to try to put measures in place to prevent drownings.”
Adam didn’t like the water and didn’t swim. His fully clothed body was found in the pool shortly after the supervised swimming had finished at the social gathering, attended by about 15 children and their mums. Life, not surprisingly, hasn’t been the same since. Driven to honour Adam’s memory and prevent another tragedy, the family started the Adam Crouch Foundation in 2010 which works with a number of water safety groups to prevent drownings so “no family has to go through what we did”.
A recent report by the Royal Life Saving Society found up to 85 per cent of home pools in some areas do not meet safety standards. Police have now started charging allegedly negligent pool owners with manslaughter in drowning matters and from October this year all local councils will be required to carry out regular swimming pool inspections.
At last month’s Blue Mountains council meeting, councillors voted unanimously to endorse a draft swimming pool and fence inspection program which will recommend five yearly inspections of backyard pools. It will affect the 2700 pool owners that have been on Blue Mountains council’s registered pool records since 1991 (there are many more pools pre-1991 but they have yet to been put on the list). Initial pool inspections will cost $150 and from November, $220 fines may be given out to those who do not register for inspections. By April next year a pool compliance certificate will be needed to sell or lease any Mountains home with a pool.
It will be a big job for council. Under council’s current community service program 400 annual visits are made to homes with pools and half of those are re-inspections.
There has been no charge associated with the visits. But Mel Savage, the program and services co-ordinator of Austswim NSW, a peak water safety body, says “if people can afford a pool, they can afford an inspection”.
Ms Savage, who has been working closely with council on the barrier program, says while Blue Mountains is “leaps and bounds ahead of most councils” she would still prefer three yearly inspections or an additional self inspection process over the five years. Pool owners should also update their CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) skills and display the current CPR chart, she said.
Royal Life Saving figures show these school holidays are a peak danger period for young swimmers after a break from summer swim lessons because “kids have often forgotten those lessons from six months ago and have lost their confidence, but return to the water expecting everything to be the same”, Ms Savage said.
For Carmel Crouch, whose son’s foundation has brought the safety awareness message to 300 children at seven community pre-schools in the Mountains and put 23 disadvantaged families in the area through the Learn to Swim program over the last year, it’s a simple equation.
“It’s just all about awareness and child safety.”
To register your pool go to: www.swimmingpoolregister.nsw.gov.au.