How safe are swimming pools for kids in UAE?
The view of a swimming pool which has no lifeguard on duty at the roof top of a residential apartment in Dubai.-Photo by Shihab
KT visited swimming pools at three randomly-chosen locations to investigate if life-saving regulations were being followed.
Exactly a month ago, an expatriate Indian family's lives came crashing down after their 11-year-old son drowned in a commercial swimming pool in Sharjah.
"I have already lost my life," R.J. (name withheld at request), the victim's distraught father, said.
The on-site swimming instructor allegedly did not know how to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), which led to the child's death. However, the management maintained that the boy was "unwell" and "suffered a seizure". The family has not recovered from the shock of losing their beloved son and is desperately seeking answers. They have since moved to another apartment in Dubai.
"Being in the same flat was too painful for us. Even the doors and cupboards reminded us of him. He was a lively, active and healthy boy. We were well-known in the building only thanks to his social skills," said R.J.
The family has several questions but does not know whom to ask. "Why didn't the trainer know how to perform CPR? Why did he ask him to swim into the deep end without floats? Why aren't parents allowed in the pool premises when children are using the pool? There was a medical clinic in the building, why weren't doctors summoned?" asked the distraught father, struggling to maintain his composure.
Tragically, R.J. is not the only parent to be grieving after losing a child in the swimming pool. Since June 2018, Khaleej Times has reported 16 deaths in swimming pools around the country. Shockingly, all the victims were aged below 13. Just earlier this week, a two-year-old girl drowned in the pool of a family villa in Mirdif. Neiza Shujain had slipped outside their house through an open door and eventually fell into the pool.
16 swimming pool deaths in 15 months
-August 23: 2-year-old Indian child drowns in a villa pool in Mirdif
-July 31: 11-year-old boy drowns on day 1 of his swimming lesson in Sharjah
-July 12: 2-year-old drowns in his family's Al Ain house pool
-June 8: 2-year-old Emirati twin boys drown in the pool of their neighbour's house in Ras Al Khaimah
-April 24: 3-year-old German girl drowns in the pool of their residential compound in Al Barsha
-February 24: 18-month-old Arab boy drowns at his home pool in Ras Al Khaimah
-January 19: 1-year-old Emirati boy drowns in hotel pool
-December 17: 3-year-old Arab boy drowns in the pool of a villa in Ras Al Khaimah
-November 14: 4-year-old Emirati boy drowns in the pool of a school in Sharjah
-September 11: 3-year-old boy drowns in a pool at his parent's house in Al Ain
-July 26: 6-year-old Pakistani girl drowns in the pool of a hotel in Ras Al Khaimah
-July 11: 19-month-old Emirati toddler dies after falling into home pool in Ras Al Khaimah
-June 25: 8-year-old Pakistani boy drowns in the pool of a residential tower in Sharjah.
-June 4: Two children aged 1 and 2 years drown in a pool of a villa in Dubai's Mirdif area
Pools that don't follow safety guidelines are death traps
Authorities in the UAE have laid down rules and regulations to ensure safety around swimming pools. The police frequently launch campaigns to raise awareness about pool safety.
But how serious are property developers, landlords and real estate managements about following them? Khaleej Times visited swimming pools at an apartment building, villa and a gated community to investigate if life-saving regulations were being followed.
Armed with a checklist composed as per the guidelines of swimming pool safety set by the Department of Public Health and Safety, Dubai Municipality, we conducted our investigation at three randomly-chosen locations.
The verdict was shockingly disappointing.
-No barriers erected around the pool
-No lifeguards on site
-A notice board of guidelines was available only in English and not Arabic
-Depth of the pool was not indicated anywhere
-Just one float was available. That too was in the pool.
-There was a CCTV camera around the pool area
-No security guards or a lifeguard near the pool
-The pool in the centre of the community could be accessed by anyone - even kids.
-One rusted, broken float seen hanging on the wall
-No barrier around the pool
-The kids' pool had a protective overhead cover
-There was a CCTV camera around the pool area
-Depth of the pool was indicated
-No CCTV camera available
-Depth of the pool not indicated
-Two-metre high glass barricade protected the pool
-A metallic door was kept locked at all times
-First-aid kit was available
-Rubber float was available
Source: Pedro Torririt, a swimming coach, High Performance Swimming Club
Basic safety measures that can make swimming pools safer
>Have a gate and fence around the pool
>Install CCTV cameras around the pool area
>Children who do not know how to swim should be watched constantly by an adult
>Non-swimmers should wear a flotation device
>An Automated External Defibrillators (AED) device needs to be present at the pool
>Parents need to make sure their child is water-safe from a young age
>Learning to swim is not a sport but a life skill