Already in 2014, there have been more drownings in Maricopa County than in all of 2013, and officials are warning everyone to be safe around water.

“Drowning is preventable, and it takes education for people to understand it,” said Becky Hulett, aquatics supervisor with the city of Phoenix Parks and Recreation Department. “This is not a disease we’re dealing with. It is a choice that we make to teach our kids how to swim. … As parents are going across the street or walking in a parking lot, they grab their kid’s hand because it’s dangerous. They walk onto a pool deck and it’s fun. There’s that unawareness that water is dangerous. You have to respect the water. You have to learn how to swim.”

Fire and public safety officials across the Valley are reminding people of the ABCs of water safety: A for adult supervision, B for barriers like pool fences and C for classes like swim lessons and CPR classes.

“Swim lessons are imperative,” said Kelly Liebermann, Phoenix fire engineer and paramedic. “Statistics show it decreases a child’s risk of drowning by 80 percent. Those numbers are fantastic. We just want people to understand the benefits of swim lessons. … It’s not just children. Getting adults comfortable with getting in the water and getting over that embarrassment is a huge part of becoming a water safety expert.”

Liebermann said what firefighters see many times is parents who don’t know how to swim attempt to save their children when they are in trouble, and then both are in danger. That’s why even adults who don’t know how to swim need lessons.

“Prevent harm to yourself and others and help spread the message of swim lessons in this state,” Liebermann said.

The city of Phoenix offers swim lessons for $15 for eight lessons.

According to the Phoenix Fire Department, there have been 81 drowning incidents in Maricopa County this year, including 28 fatalities.

For more information on swim lessons at the city of Phoenix, call (602) 534-6587.

For more information on water safety, visit

• Contact writer: (480) 898-7914 or

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