By Mark Carlisle
As temperatures rise again, adults and children alike will flock to the pool to stay cool.
While swimming pools can be a great source of summer fun, Arizonans know all too well they can be a great danger, too.
Arizona’s child drowning rate dwarfs the national average. In 2016, children 14 and younger drowned in pools and spas at a rate 3.5 times higher than the national average, according to data from USA Swimming. Arizona ranked second, behind Hawaii, in the unfortunate statistic.
The problem isn’t getting better either. Drowning deaths increased by 30% from 2016 to 2017, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services, and accounted for 4% of all child deaths.
But that trend can be reversed. May is National Water Safety Month, and the more time spent by the pool, the more important it is to supervise the young ones. AZDHS determined all drowning deaths in 2017 were preventable, accounting for 10% of all preventable deaths among children. It also found that lack of supervision was a factor in 69% of drowning deaths.
Here are some water safety tips from the nonprofit International Swimming Hall of Fame:
- Teach children water safety and swimming skills as early as possible.
- Always brief babysitters on water safety, emphasizing the need for constant supervision.
- Appoint a designated watcher to monitor children during social gatherings at or near pools.
- Post CPR instructions and learn the procedures.
- Keep rescue equipment poolside. Don’t wait for the paramedics to arrive because you will lose valuable lifesaving seconds. Four to six minutes without oxygen can cause permanent brain damage or death.
- Keep a first aid kit at poolside
- Install four-sided isolation fencing, at least five feet high, equipped with self-closing and self-latching gates, that completely surrounds the pool and prevents direct access from the house and yard.
- Maintain constant visual contact with children in a pool or pool area. If a child is missing, check the pool first; seconds count in preventing death or disability.
- Don’t use flotation devices as a substitute for supervision. Never allow a young child in a pool without an adult.
- Don’t leave objects such as toys that might attract a child in the pool and pool area.
- Never prop the gate to a pool area open.
- Don’t rely on swimming lessons, life preservers or other equipment to make a child “water safe.”
- Never assume someone else is watching a child in a pool area.
- Don’t leave chairs or other items of furniture where a child could use them to climb into a fenced pool area.
- Don’t think you’ll hear a child who’s in trouble in the water; child drowning is a silent death, with no splashing to alert anyone that the child is in trouble.
In addition to being prominent across the state, the problem of child drownings hits close to home, too. Almost three-quarters of 275 drownings and near drownings in Maricopa County in 2016 were age 14 or younger; 63% were age 4 or younger. Eight of 12 drownings or near drownings in Glendale in 2016 were children 4 or younger, and 22 of 26 drownings or near drownings Glendale’s Banner Thunderbird Medical Center in 2016 were children 4 or younger.
The Glendale Fire Department saved three children from drowning last year, but local fire and paramedic crews shouldn’t be counted on as the only form of prevention because they can’t always make it in time. Make sure you and your family are practicing good water safety to ensure your trips to the pool this summer bring nothing but good memories.
Child swimming lessons
Glendale’s Foothills Aquatics Center, 5600 W. Union Hills Drive, and Rose Lane Aquatics Center, 5003 W. Mariette Ave., both offer adult and child swim lessons. Call 623-930-4600 for the Foothills center and 623-930-7905 for the Rose Lane Center.
Other child swim lessons in Glendale include the Glendale/Peoria Family YMCA, 14711 N. 59th Ave., (visit ValleyYMCA.org or call 602-588-9622) and Glendale Community College, 6000 W. Olive Ave. (contact Louise So at 623-845-3883 or firstname.lastname@example.org).
The Glendale Fire Department offers free CPR classes for groups of 50 or more upon request. The course does not provide certification. Visit glendaleaz.com/education/cprclasses.cfm to download the form to schedule a class.
Find an American Heart Association CPR certification course near you at bit.ly/2GwBAcH .
The Tempe-based Arizona CPR Training and Certification will travel to the West Valley to teach a class. Visit arizonacprcertification.com/contact-us.php .