THE drowning death of a Gunnedah toddler has inspired an award-winning pool safety program in Tamworth.
Tamworth Regional Council’s swimming pools technical officer Gary Johnson spent four years developing the program, not wanting another lifeguard or family to lose a swimmer.
Dougie King was an energetic two-and-a-half-year-old when he drowned at Gunnedah Pool in 2001 and Mr Johnson has wondered ever since what he could’ve done better on that day to stop the tragedy.
From this came the Pool Super Vision program that’s been rewarded with the Statewide Mutual Risk Management Excellence Award.
Mr Johnson also won an award from Western Australian Royal Life Saving for his passion for life saving and this program.
He thanked his life-guards for their work in helping to win the award and said it had been a step-by-step journey to get to this point.
“The window to save someone is very small and there’s no going back,” he said.
The program is an image-based training program for lifeguards where they look at their pools, draw diagrams and show areas where they can’t see swimmers and identify the high-risk swimmers such as small children.
Mr Johnson said in 20 years, 88 people had drowned in public pools and the following decade there were 34, and that he hoped this program would build on that to reduce the numbers even further.
He said Pool Super Vision taught lifeguards to identify the barriers to effective supervision present at their aquatic facility and helped them to develop strategies for managing them.
“Put simply, it provides lifeguards with a risk-based decision making process for determining the best locations to supervise from and which patrons are likely to require the most supervision,” he said.
“This program is a away of doing a better job with the same number of lifeguards.”
He said Dougie’s parents were very happy this program was dedicated to their son.
Tamworth Regional Council general manager Paul Bennett said this program was now recognised around Australia and being taken up by more and more councils from as far away as WA.
Mr Bennett said the council hadpreviously introduced the Watch Around Water program and now the Pool Super Vision program.
“This will most assuredly save lives,” he said.
“The award is recognition of the effort that Gary has put in. It’s wonderful we’ve got people like that working for our community. We were competing against massive councils for this award and it all comes down to the passion for the job.”
Mr Johnson said the program would be implemented with lifeguards across pools in the Tamworth region this swimming season.
He will be in Lake Macquarie today to show their lifeguards how the program works.