Temperatures are climbing — and the voices of the East Valley’s annual drowning prevention campaign are growing louder. It happens every year about this time.
Dozens of agencies, including police, fire and private companies, are offering programs, including two in Scottsdale, that hope to eliminate drownings through education and safety.
John Harrington, president and founder of the Drowning Prevention Coalition, is among the most vocal of water safety advocates.
"The goal is to stop drownings — period," said Harrington, who started the coalition after losing his 18-monthold son, Rex, in a backyard pool 18 years ago.
The coalition’s motto: "Prevent drowning . . . block, watch and learn."
He referred to the coalition’s successful campaign to convince communities, including Scottsdale, to adopt ordinances requiring blockage such as a fence or wall directly between a home and swimming pool.
Harrington said the coalition will continue to press for direct home-pool blockage that will eventually protect the more than 300,000 pools in the Valley.
Sandy Nygaard, public education officer for Rural/Metro Fire Department, said the programs are aimed at the many newcomers.
"A lot of new people to the Valley don’t realize the problem we have with swimming pools," Nygaard said.
From July 2002 to July 2003, no children drowned, but four adults died in private swimming pools and spas in Scottsdale, Nygaard said.
The number of drowning deaths in Maricopa County is declining, Nygaard said, although the 2003-04 season is not over. In 2002, 56 people drowned, compared with 60 in 2001 and 64 in 2000.
Rural/Metro on Saturday will join the Scottsdale parks and recreation department, Scottsdale police and other agencies for a daylong water safety program, April Pool’s Day, at the Eldorado Aquatic and Fitness Center.
Jona Davis, recreation coordinator for the Scottsdale parks and recreation department, said the event will feature a simulated water rescue involving Rural/Metro firefighters, a helicopter and CPR by pool lifeguards.
Scottsdale has more than 90 certified lifeguards at the city’s three pools, Davis said.
Water safety programs are being offered at public and private agencies throughout the East Valley, including an extensive plan at the Valley of the Sun Jewish Community Center, 12701 N. Scottsdale Road, beginning May 16.
"We have one of the highest per capita swimming pools per single-family home of any city in the country, and a child drowning rate that exceeds that of coastal cities," said Marci Grossman, spokeswoman for the center.
The program from noon to 5 p.m. May 16 teaches prevention and rescue skills for families; from 7 a.m. to noon May 23, it focuses on businesses; and noon to 6 p.m. May 23, the course offers first aid skills such as CPR.
April Pool’s Day
What: April Pool’s Day, a day devoted to water safety and drowning prevention
When: Noon to 5 p.m. Saturday
Where: Eldorado Aquatic and Fitness Center, 2301 N. Miller Road, Scottsdale
Who: City Parks and Recreation Department, Rural/Metro Fire Department, Scottsdale Police, Scottsdale Healthcare and companies that sell water safety equipment
Information: (480) 312-8428