The Royal Life Saving Society recently made a startling announcement: 80 percent of the 350,000 backyard pools in Australia’s state of New South Wales are unsafe.

RLSS is Australia’s leading water-safety educator and a rescue training provider, and its analysis of reports from pool inspections in New South Wales turned up the disturbing statistic. In fact, said Michael Ilinsky, in some areas, the number of noncompliant inspected pools was as high as 95 percent. “To suggest these figures are frightening is an understatement,” the operations manager of RLSS said. “Have pool owners become complacent? Do they perceive their pools to be safe? Is pool safety a minor concern? These are questions we are seeking to find answers to.”

Though property owners must register their pools with the NSW government, most apparently are not complying with its safety requirements. Ilinsky listed the major noncompliance issues: gates that are not self-closing or self-latching; furniture or items such as potted plants that are placed against the pool fence, enabling children to climb over if they so desire; lack of CPR charts displayed in pool areas; deterioration of old fences or excessive gaps under fences, allowing direct entry into the pool areas.

“In many cases, the noncompliance can be traced to a lack of education and awareness,” Ilinsky said.

There’s a sense of urgency, he added, because in the past decade, 60 children under age 5 have drowned in NSW backyard pools. Seventy suffered neurological damage as a result of water immersion, and more than 1,000 were hospitalized due to this phenomenon.

Adding to the urgency: It’s summer in Australia — the season runs from December to February — and safety advocates are concerned that unsafe backyard pool conditions will contribute to higher drowning statistics. Indeed, drowning is a leading cause of death in Australia for children under age 5.

“Our goal is to eliminate child drowning,” Ilinsky said. “Is this achievable? I hope so. But whilst there is complacency and a lack of education amongst our swimming pool owners, I have grave concerns for the coming months.”