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Swimming into trouble...

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By Meera Ravi


Are you following the heated debate about 3D gun designs on the Internet? Do you, like me, agree that it is dangerous and can trigger unfortunate shoot-outs and loss of life because it can lead to unsupervised weapons usage?

If the answer to both the above questions is a yes, then I am sure you, like me, are shocked, worried and upset that we have a similar unsupervised threat to our lives lurking in plain sight in Bahrain. Right there, in a patch of sunshine, glittering with a thousand sparkles, is your neighbourhood swimming pool. And what do we see? Nary a lifeguard in sight. Ready to swallow an unsuspecting non-swimmer or even an expert swimmer who is struck with cramps or hurts himself in an accident.

The news that there are 200 swimming pools in Juffair alone, in hotels, service apartments and high-rise buildings and that from March (when we all were primed for summer) till now, in the middle of a sizzling season when these pools are most used, only 60 pools have been checked for safety and hygiene is scary. But the worst news is that of the 60, the majority – 40 in all – failed the basic test. If this statistical template is stretched, then over 130 swimming pools of the total 200 in Juffair would probably be unsafe! Multiply that with the many pools across the kingdom in private villas, compounds, health clubs and hotels and the potential for disaster in mind-boggling.

Why are Bahrain pools so unsafe? For one thing, many residents come from countries where swimming is not an essential life-skill. I remember reading about children who were recipients of a National Bravery Award given each year by the government of India and invariably each year, the majority of children won it for saving adults, friends and siblings from drowning – even when they didn’t know swimming themselves. So you have people using swimming pools, who either don’t know swimming or who have very rudimentary ‘doggy paddle’ skills in water. The chances of accidental drowning or near-drowning are high.

Even good swimmers can face life-threatening situations in swimming pools. A couple of years ago, a senior executive and a good swimmer drowned in an unsupervised high-rise pool because he suffered a heart attack and could not get out of the pool to seek help. A lifeguard would probably have changed the destiny of this family!

The Bahrain pools that failed did so spectacularly – no lifeguards, no clear marks on changing depth, no life-saving equipment, not even first-aid kits and poor hygiene. They crossed all the boxes instead of ticking them!

Officially, the government must speed up the process of certifying the hundreds of pools across Bahrain on a tighter deadline for this year and by 2019 have a detailed action plan to certify the safety of all pools before April and the official summer season.

The best way to ensure fewer pool deaths is to inculcate the swimming habit in the public. Have more public pools, make swimming compulsory for boys and girls from primary school level with competitions and badges for proficiency. Have lifeguard certification for twenty-something men and women who can seek part-time work during the season when pressure for manned pools is the greatest.

There is no 3D printable lifeguard in the near future – so can we see a government swimming pool safety wish list please?

meeraresponse@gmail.com

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