July 13, 2010
Commentary by Councilmember Rick Heumann and Fire Chief Jeff Clark
Prevent child drowning with simple measures
Firefighters are trained to respond to all sorts of emergencies but during summer months there are calls they wish they never had to answer. Drownings and children trapped in hot vehicles are at the top of the list. Recent news of such fatalities serves as tragic reminders that caregivers have the great responsibility of ensuring kids’ safety. Extreme temperatures like the ones we are experiencing now make it imperative to be very vigilant when caring for children to avoid accidents that are for the most part preventable.
Statistically, children between the ages of 1 and 14 are more likely to get injured or die from accidents than any other cause, including illness or violent crime. And drownings account for a large percentage of children fatalities in Arizona. In Maricopa County, the total has already reached eight children since the beginning of the year.
There is no such thing as too much awareness when it comes to drowning prevention. It only takes a few seconds for a tragedy to happen. A simple distraction such as answering a phone call while a child is in the pool or bathtub can be fatal. We remind the community that supervision is the best prevention and stress the importance of the popular slogan: “Eye to Eye to Supervise.” This message can’t be repeated enough.
Additional safety measures include installing pool barriers, which are mandatory in Chandler. They can be in the form of a pool fence or by installing special locks on doors and windows leading to the pool area. The Chandler Fire Department also advises that life saving equipment such as ropes or poles be kept near the pool and that every care giver learn cardio pulmonary resuscitation (CPR). It is also recommended that furniture and toys be kept away from the area to prevent children from climbing over them and accessing the pool without supervision. Careful attention should also be given near ponds, lakes, canals as well as bathtubs and buckets of water.
Aboveground inflatable and portable pools are gaining popularity but pose great dangers as well. Since they often fall outside of local building codes that require pool barriers, children can climb over them even when the ladders are removed.
Across the Valley, there are a great number of private, non-profit and governmental agencies that have stepped up to heighten awareness about drowning prevention. Of note is the Water Watchers program of the Phoenix Children Hospital, the Drowning Prevention Coalition of Arizona, the United Phoenix Fire Fighters Association Save-R-Kids program and others. -. Most Web sites have information and videos covering water safety tips as well as links to statistical data and local grief support groups. Links to all of these sources can be found on the Chandler Fire Department website at www.chandleraz.gov/fire.
As mentioned previously, CPR training is highly recommended as well as enrolling young children in swim lessons. Survival swim classes are offered for infants as young as 6 months old through the nationally recognized Infant Swimming Resource organization. Dramatic video re-enactments show how fully dressed infants can fall into bodies of water and survive by floating on their backs and crying out for help. The few seconds or minutes that these babies are able to gain by keeping their heads above water can truly save their lives.
No word can express the loss of life due to a preventable accident. And adults are also at risk when swimming alone in their pool. The key is to recognize danger signs and to make the right judgment calls to avoid potential tragedies. The Chandler Fire Department as well as the many organizations and individuals who are committed to educating the public about water safety truly hope that they’ll never get another call like the ones they’ve received this summer.
For more information about water safety and to inquire about the Fire Department’s adopt-a-pool-fence program, please call 480-782-2120 or visit www.chandleraz.gov/fire.