Each year the warning goes out - when the temperatures get warmer parents need to watch their kids around water. Yet, especially during summer holidays, Tiffaney Isaacson, water safety specialist for Water Watchers at Phoenix Childen's Hospital, can almost predict that a drowning will occur.
"It's like having a crystal ball and not being able to do anything with it," said Isaacson, who has been in charge of the group since 2003. Year-round the group offers free curriculum to schools and community groups about water safety in everything from bath time to backyard pools and even on open water.
"For me it's a big issue because I think we all want to make a difference in our community," Isaacson said. "Every drowning is like a titanic. Many things have to go wrong for a child to die in a pool... If you can stop almost any of those factors from being present you can save a life."
Isaacson said common factors are a lapse in supervision, failure of a barrier or no barrier at all, a child's lack of ability to swim and, many times, the lack of CPR training.
Last year, there were 20 child drownings in Maricopa County, Isaacson said. Approximately another 10 to 15 children suffered a life-long disability they will not recover from. This year, Maricopa County has seen one toddler drowning in Gilbert.
"It's really tough," Isaacson said. "It really shakes a community to lose a child to something that's so preventable."
Simple steps can be taken to save lives. A pool fence is only the first step but it can't protect children on its own. Parents are still responsible for watching their children to make sure they cannot get over or under the fence. If a family is considering putting a bistro set outside, Isaacson recommends putting it inside the fence. Also toys like plastic playhouses can easily be pushed by children and become ladders to get over the fence.
When no one is in the pool parents need to constantly be watching kids and making sure all doors are locked in case the adult falls asleep.
"In real life when you have a 2 year old and you're pregnant with the next one and you've had morning sickness all day, you might fall asleep on the couch," Isaacson said. "You really have to think about, what happens if I fall asleep on the couch and I'm home alone? It's not ideal but if you're very sick and very tired do you have childproof locks and how soon can someone come over to help you so that you can take a nap? This has happened."
Another thing that has happened, even in Ahwatukee Foothills, is toddlers getting out through doggy doors. In 2008 a toddler drowned in Ahwatukee after slipping out of the family's doggy door. The child was one of three drownings that year in Ahwatukee alone, Isaacson said.
When it is time to swim, Becky Hulett, aquatics supervisor for the city of Phoenix, said with young children it's always best to be in the water with them while swimming.
"It's best to have someone sitting in the side of the pool and watching, especially the bottom of the pool," Hulett said. "Lots of people watch the surface but it's important to have one person constantly scanning the bottom."
This time of year it's also important to make sure kids are signed up for swimming lessons. The city offers swimming lessons for children six months and older and even for adults at Pecos Community Center, 17010 S. 48th St. Registration for these classes begins at 10:30 a.m. on May 7. A complete list can be found at phoenix.gov/parks and click on "pools."
Protecting kids around water is really up to parents. Isaacson and Hulett both recommend getting certified or recertified in CPR.
Though young children cannot save someone who has fallen into the water they can help protect others by warning parents if the pool fence has been left open.
Finally, whatever safety precautions are taken at home need to be discussed with family and babysitters who may be in charge later.
"If you work very hard to child-proof your own home and have strong, consistent water safety practices in your own home you need the same thing in every place that your child visits," Isaacson said.
Though it's important to protect toddlers from falling into a backyard pool, water safety is an issue for any age. Phoenix Water Watchers has a new program called Playing it Safe, which teaches parents how to keep everyone safe. Members of Water Watchers will visit groups of four or five parents at any location they request and help them assess their situation and what can be improved in a non-threatening, 20-minute conversation. The program will offer free safety tips for every age. For more information or to register, call (602) 546-1712 or email Isaacson at firstname.lastname@example.org.