It’s barely June and already there have been two incidents of children drowning in the East Valley, one in Mesa and one in Chandler. As the weather heats up, the need for heightened safety measures around pools becomes apparent.
“We’ve had a rash of incidents already this year. The most important thing to remember is that a drowning can happen to anyone, any time,” said Michele Long, Mesa Fire Department drowning prevention coordinator.
It’s not just about putting a fence around the pool. Fences are, after all, stationary objects; they don’t move, they don’t protect, they don’t respond to changing conditions.
The only true safety feature a pool can have is the keen eye of an attentive adult.
Tom Dwiggins, battalion chief and public information officer for the Chandler Fire Department, said that in the case of the recent drowning in Chandler, some 40 people were at the event, and there were nearly a dozen people in the pool. He said drowning is not a slow, noisy occurrence, as people assume it to be. When a child becomes exhausted and slips below the surface, drowning can be quick and quiet.
Drowning doesn’t necessarily happen in the summer, either. Dwiggins said more and more pool-related fatalities are happening in different times of the year.
“Across the Valley we have numerous drownings every summer … really all year-round. We are conveying a public safety message all throughout the year,” said Dwiggins, who added that the department tries to emphasize three basic tips for drowning prevention.
• Barriers: Pool fences and self-closing, self-locking gates and doors do a considerable amount to keep children away from unsupervised pools.
• Supervision: The mantra here is “eye-to-eye supervise.” Having a designated pool-watcher, or watchers working in shifts, can be the difference between a great party and a tragedy.
• Education: Swim classes for kids (and adults who need them) and Cardio-Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) classes for everyone are key elements of safety for the summer. It’s also important to note that CPR is most useful when it includes rescue breathing. Hands-only CPR is useful for some victims, but doesn’t do as much for those with water in their lungs.
Keeping these tips in mind and an eye on kids around the pool can save lives this summer.
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