As part of the "VISION ZERO 2020 - Child accidents are preventable" initiative by the KFV (Austrian Road Safety Board), safety expert Helmi is touring in Austrian provinces in the summer months, teaching children between the ages of five and 15 how to swim. At the tour kick-off, Family Minister Dr. Sophie Karmasin, Dr. Othmar Thann, Director of the KFV, and Dr. Wolfgang Schreiber, Chief Physician of the Austrian Red Cross were present. Drowning is the second most common cause of accident-related death among children in Austria.
Vienna, 17. June 2015
On average, three children between the ages of zero and fifteen drown in Austria each year. On top of that, there are hundreds of non-fatal accidents that can have severe consequences and mean lifelong damages for the children involved. "No child should drown in Austria. It is up to us adults to act in an attentive and far-sighted way so that our children don't end up in dangerous situations in the first place. Every single accident that can be prevented is a victory," says Family Minister Dr. Sophie Karmasin. „No matter their age, children love water and especially on hot summer days, many water bugs large and small are found at swimming pools and lakes. But swimming is not only fun and healthy, it is also a skill that has to be learnt and it is particularly important for one's safety," Dr. Othmar Thann, Director of the KFV, says on Wednesday morning, together with Helmi and the Austrian Red Cross at the Therme Wien Spa, at the kick-off event for the KFV campaign "Helmi teaches children to swim". Over the next weeks, safety expert Helmi will be touring the Austrian province capitals, teaching children between the ages of five and 15 how to swim.
KFV supports children in learning how to swim
„Being able to swim can be of vital importance. Children can't be accustomed to water early enough, but targeted lessons are only possible from the age of around four of five. The sooner children learn to swim, the easier it is for them to learn and the more naturally they are able to deal with the element of water," explains Thann.
Rule number one: Always keep an eye on children
The danger of drowning among toddlers, in particular, continues to be hugely underestimated in Austria. Two out of the three children that drown in Austria each year on average are below the age of five. Drowning accidents involving toddlers often happen in the garden (pool or pond) or in the immediate vicinity of the home. "90 percent of all swimming accidents among children happen under the supervision of adults who are within eye and earshot but not close enough to intervene. Often, the accident goes unnoticed - the chidren don't scream and struggle but drown quickly and silently," warns Thann. "The lack of oxygen can lead to irreparable brain damage or even death after just a few minutes. To ensure the best possible outcome in such situations, every moment counts during rescue and resuscitation," explains Dr. Wolfgang Schreiber, Chief Physician of the Austrian Red Cross.
It is literally of vital importance that children - even when they already know how to swim - are always under supervision when near bodies of water. Especially for toddlers, the following is important: If the supervising adult is not within reach, i.e. one to a maximum of three steps away, there is little - sometimes insufficient - time for rescue or preventing grave consequences. Therefore: Always keep an eye on children! Toddlers should always remain within reach!
VISION ZERO 2020
The "Helmi teaches children to swim" campaign is part of the "Vision Zero 2020" initiative founded last year by the KFV. No child killed in Austria by 2020 - this is the ambitious objective of the initiative. In accordance with the motto "Full attention - Zero accidents!" targeted information and exciting campaigns are to increase awareness for protecting our little ones and child accidents are to be prevented through practical prevention measures.