Yuma, Arizona - August was proclaimed “Drowning Impact Awareness Month” in the City of Yuma by Mayor Douglas J. Nicholls. This proclamation was also being made for the State of Arizona by Gov. Douglas A. Ducey.  The purpose is to raise awareness of the number of cases and the impact of child drowning in Arizona. Even though Arizona is considered a desert state, on average, drowning incidents take the lives of many of our state’s children. Children 4 years old and younger are in the highest risk group.

Every year in Arizona dozens of people drown. So far this year, in the Phoenix area alone, there have been 33 drowning deaths (9 of which were children) resulting from 108 water related incidents. The Yuma area is not immune with at least 2 fatalities and 2 near drowning (saved by CPR) incidents this summer involving small children.

Families can take simple steps to protect their children around water and avoid the tragedy of unnecessary loss of life. The most basic of these steps comes down to constant, responsible, focused, adult supervision of any child around water. Never let a child unattended around water for any length of time. It takes “just a few seconds” for a life to be lost and a family to be changed forever. All too often first responders hear “I only looked away for a few seconds” or “I thought someone else was watching them.”

Barrier fencing is another important safety factor for children around pools. Pool owners should ensure there are no gaps in their fencing and that self-closing/self-latching gates are working properly. Door alarms should be tested, and kept in good working order (even if irritating, they are that way for a reason…to get your attention in a life threatening emergency). Even personal alarms are available to attach to a child that will activate when exposed to water. Temporary “summer” pools should be kept just as secure, inside fenced/secure areas and emptied when they are not being played in.

Although you cannot waterproof a child, you can make them more drowning resistant by being sure they learn to swim.  However, even children with proven swimming abilities need constant adult supervision.

Keeping children healthy and safe are the goals of Fire Departments and other prevention institutions in Arizona. “Drowning Impact Awareness Month” is one way to raise awareness and remind people that there is no substitute for constant, responsible, focused, (even relentless!) adult supervision of children around water. The consequences of failure are just too great…