Sunday, November 21, 2010

Wet Season and water hazards.

Welcome 'Cairnsites' to what is fairly obviously a precursor to the imminent wet season. It's been stormy and windy, raining and bleak. The humidity is rising and the water holes and creeks are looking like a fabulous option on the weekends. This wet season is predicted to be a doozy. It's been suggested we will have increased cyclone activity, monsoonal rains and the possibility of flooding.

Sounds like the wet seasons of my childhood. Cyclones came once every couple of years and frightened us into bathrooms for a few hours. Neighbours packed together like sardines in our house, firing up the barbie and eating everything out of the freezer before it went bad. Chainsaws started up and cleared away the trees and we swam to the shop for milk. The sad thing is, I am not even making this up! I actually swam to the shops on the corner of Reservoir Rd and Pease Street on more than one occasion.

There are a few positives from this type of wet season. Firstly, it encourages people to clean up yards that need a once, or twice, over. Secondly, it gives us less chance of a Dengue outbreak. We all know that they breed in still water in shallow containers, roof gutters, old tyres and palm fronds, but they can't breed if the water keeps getting flushed out by more rain. Simple fact.

Lastly, it fills all of our catchments and water reservoirs with clean, fresh water. This will negate the need for any water restrictions or rises in water costs by Council. That's a bonus for all of us.

There is just one down side of a wet season like the one predicted. Water. It will beckon us all on the days when the humidity causes you to physically begin to melt from the forehead down. Swimming pools, creeks, water holes and drains will entice. The down side? Kids will also feel the same need to cool off. Little kids and big kids alike will head for water.

The problem is that some of those kids will find themselves in situations they hadn't envisioned when they thought to get wet. Drains are extremely dangerous places to be in flood times. We all know that, but kids sometimes forget. When it's really hot and humid, safety is not always the first thought you have.

Backyard pools of the blow up ring around the top kind, available from every department store at a bargain price are the next to fail under scrutiny. They have nowhere for kids to hold if they fall in. They are usually not fenced (although regulations require it) as they are seen as a toy, not as an actual pool. Those things scare me more than any other backyard object.

Regular pools are also the cause of many accidents, near drownings and the occasional fatality and when do more incidents occur? The wet season is the most likely culprit.

Kids are curious, adventurous and fearless. They are not thinking of potential dangers when they do most things and being close to water is unfortunately one of those.

We need to get support for parents to encourage them to put their children into swimming lessons at a very young age. Six months is the recommended starting point. We need to make it more affordable to do that.

Here in the tropics, activity near or on water is a regular past-time and this needs to be acknowledged by facilitating water safety courses or by providing assistance to parents so they can enrol their children now. Perhaps a Government subsidy for all children under 5 to get the basics taught. Swimming lessons are as essential as learning how to read as far as I am concerned. It's nearly impossible to suffer brain damage while reading a book or spelling a word. Education of our children is the priority for all parents, this should be part of that process.

Unfortunately, swimming lessons can cost anywhere from 11-20 dollars per half hour session. It's actually more expensive than any sport and out of the financial reach of many parents. It doesn't make them bad parents if they can't afford to take their kids to lessons, parents pay a lot to raise a child these days and swimming lessons are as much a luxury as petrol for some.

Whether your child is a confident swimmer, struggles with a poor dog paddle or is too tiny to reach the bottom on tip toes, the best way to ensure your children stay safe is to watch them. Stay vigilant around water, teach them to stay away from flood waters and drains and for God's sake, throw the cheap blow up pool in the bin unless it is fenced with regulated fencing.

Above all else, have a safe and happy wet season. Enjoy the water, the bbq's and the holidays but make sure you also stay alert near water, keep little fingers away from hotplates and drive safely. Next year will be a great one, help to ensure it starts well.

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