With the majority of the 54 water related incidents already accrued in Maricopa County involving adults and teenagers, the Mesa Fire Department and the Drowning Prevention Coalition urge residents to recognize the ability to swim does not always ensure their safety.
Michelle Long, fire and life safety specialist for the Mesa Fire Department, explained these incidents don’t always involve large bodies of water, as the department has seen many accidents occur in Jacuzzis and hot tubs.
“We frequently see drownings involving adults occurring in spas, Long said. “The combination of alcohol and or medications and the heat of the sauna create dehydration, resulting in lightheadedness and loss of consciousness, ultimately ending in drowning.”
Long added in addition to spas, adult drowning often happens at lakes when swimmers misjudge their ability to swim long distances.
“They will swim off on their own and by the time they realize they can’t make it to shore, they have no one there to help them,” she said.
Long said adults and teens should also be aware while water may seem calm on the surface — whether it is in lakes, rivers, or canals — there are strong currents underneath that could pull them down within an instant.
One simple thing that individuals can do to lower the risk of drowning is to avoid swimming alone. Adults and teens sometimes believe they are fully capable swimming safely by themselves and fail to recognize they’d be on their own should an accident take place.
While swimming alone may be the main factor in adult and teen drowning, lack of supervision and the assumption that a drowning child will be heard is what plays the biggest role in fatalities for young children. It turns out children don’t flail and cause much noise at all after falling into a pool. Long said that what really happens is that the child will make a motion that resembles climbing a ladder under water, resulting in no audible noise to those not directly next to the child.
“Drowning is silent,” she said. “While media has helped to enlighten parents, most still believe that the child will scream or splash and make noise. They don’t.”
Preventing drowning does not have to be difficult and the DPCA has multiple tips for residents to see that the number of instances and fatalities with relation to water decreases significantly.
Tracey Fejt — secretary for the DPCA as well as the injury prevention coordinator for Banner Children’s Hospital in Mesa — said, “We always encourage parents to use lifeguard on duty tags that designate one person to be watching the kids at all times.” Fejt added it’s important during their watch time that they eat, drink, socialize, or anything else that could potentially distract their attention from the child.
During their watch adults need to be closed enough to touch the kids and that each adults shift be no longer than 15-20 minutes increments.
“It’s always good to have a fresh set eyes…after that long ,you start seeing what you want to see not what you are seeing,” Fejt added.
he DPCA encourages any house with a pool use multiple barriers to insure the utmost safety. These barriers could include, but are not limited to, high locking arcadia doors, chirp alarms indicating a door has been opened, and a self-locking pool gate of at least five feet to surround the pool.
“It is also imperative to be wary of any doggie doors that could potentially gain a child access outside,” Fejt said.
Swimming lessons are also strongly suggested for children even under a year of age as well as making sure parents know how to swim.
“The DPCA has given out grants the past three years to help with free or reduced swimming lesson for both kids and adults,” Fejt said.
The DPCA encourage kids to wear U.S. Coast Guard approved life jackets and not “floaties” if they are unable to swim. Through the Ryan Thomas Foundation, DPCA, Arizona Game Fish and other agencies, life jacket loner programs are soon going to be available at some of the lakes in the state. Melissa Sutton, a current member of the DPCA, said that getting the word out about how to protect yourself and loved ones is the most vital part of all.
“Through PSAs, we can really get all of this great information out there to families who really need it,” she said, “there are so many resources to use that can easily be accessed such as Child Safety Zone’s website as well as Maricopa County’s site.”
Sutton added bringing attention to how common these drowning incidents are will be a key role in seeing the number of these accidents significantly drop.