By Allison Hurtado
Ahwatukee Foothills News
After a sharp increase in the number of child drownings in Arizona already this year, fire departments from 23 cities are teaming up to warn the public about the need for water safety.
“We have what’s called automatic and mutual aid,” said Capt. Forrest Smith of the Mesa Fire Department during a press conference Wednesday. “We will respond to major incidents and come together in mitigating emergency situations. When we look at the fact that day to day we work together, why not come together to get the word out about water safety.”
Smith said the different departments will typically put out the same message individually each year but that working together allowed them to partner with the National Drowning Prevention Alliance in providing the public with safety information. That information is available online through each city government channel, including videos about simple safety steps.
So far there have been 49 (water) related incidents in Maricopa County. Nineteen of them have resulted in fatalities and eight of them have been children under the age of 12.
Corrine Simzyk, a mother of four, spoke about losing her oldest child seven years ago in a drowning incident. Her daughter was 2 years old when Simzyk found her floating in a backyard pool.
“Child drownings are preventable,” Simzyk said. “I thought we did everything right when we put our pool up. I knew CPR and Morgan was in swim lessons. We found out the hard way you can never do too much to protect your kids around water.”
Simzyk had gone to the corner store just down the street and came back home before anyone realized her daughter had disappeared. She said the first time she saw a helicopter up close was when it was carrying her daughter to a local hospital.
“It’s a memory you don’t forget,” Simzyk said. “It’s a nightmare. I wake up every night tossing and turning, especially when it gets warm. The pain is unbearable.”
The group gave a small demonstration of proper water safety. They encouraged staying close and being alert, learning and practicing water safety skills, and having the appropriate equipment. For more information, visit poolsafety.gov.
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