by Barbara Rice, Fire Marshall, Casa Grande Fire Department
Every body of water and every warm Arizona day provides an opportunity for fun summer experiences – but also the potential for a death by drowning. On average, twice as many children drown in Arizona than in the rest of the nation. Approximately five of every 100,000 children in Arizona die due to drowning. The majority of these drowning deaths occur between June and Labor Day. Children under the age of 5 are most likely to drown, but it is also the second-leading cause of death for people between the ages of 5 and 24. Drownings occur in water buckets, irrigation ditches, bathtubs, rivers, lakes and swimming pools. A child can drown in a very small amount of water, however most drownings occur in swimming pools and happen when children are unattended for just an instant. Distractions make for tragedies, so it is important to never leave young children unattended. There have been instances of children access backyard swimming pools from pet doors. To protect your children and prevent drownings it is important to always be with your children.
- Some other water safety precautions include:
- Enroll yourself or your children in swim lessons.
- Don’t let children play unattended around bodies of water.
- Never let children play around drains and suction fittings in pools.
- If a child is missing, check water sources first!
- If you must leave your child for even just a second, assign a responsible adult to watch them or take the child with you if there is no one around.
- Learn CPR. In the last five years in Casa Grande, there have been near drownings, but in every case someone performed CPR on a child who was submerged until help could arrive, saving that child’s life. Performing CPR saves lives!
- Be sure to use lifejackets or other Coast Guard-a proved personal flotation devices. Arm floats and inflatable toys will not protect someone from drowning. They are toys, not life-saving devices.
- Have pool barriers installed to prevent entry.
To ensure safety for older family members, regardless of the water sport, there are important safety tips to follow, as well:
- Wear Coast Guard-approved safety vests when boating, fishing, skiing or participating in other water sports.
- Never swim alone.
- Don’t go in the water unless you know how to swim.
- Swim in bodies of water that do not exceed your skill level. Areas subject to currents or undertows are deadly, and a great deal of strength is required to swim in current.
- Swim in areas supervised by a lifeguard.
- Don’t dive in areas you are not familiar with.
- Do not drink alcohol when swimming. Alcohol is involved in nearly half of all male teen and young adult drownings.
- Know your limitations. Don’t swim when you are tired.
Our state provides year-round recreational opportunities and it just makes sense to enjoy the natural and man-made water bodies during the warm days. Just following a few safety tips can ensure those fun summer days do not turn tragic.