August is Drowning Awareness Month, and there could be no more worthy cause in midsummer here in the Valley of Backyard Pools.
There have been 531 water-related accidents in the Valley since January 2000, in which 104 children lost their lives. This is 104 too many. Twelve deaths have occurred so far this year. That is 12 too many.
One of those pleading for more public awareness, and some legislative action, is Diane Sevey or Mesa, whose 3-year-old son Derek drowned in a neighbor's pool on March 29. Little Derek had slipped out of the house and, before his mother noticed and went looking for him, he had gotten into the neighbor's backyard and into the pool, which was not separated from the rest of the yard by the fence.
“We figured not having a pool eliminated the danger,” Sevey told the Tribune's Bryon Wells during a rally at Phoenix Children's Hospital on Thursday. “I didn't see the pool next door as a danger. We were very, very wrong. And now our boy is gone.”
Sevey is to be commended for sharing her tragedy, and her insights, with the community. Her words should be read and re-read by those with small children, whether they have a pool or not, and by pool owners. If she raises public awareness of the danger, which surely she already has done, she will save lives, and spare other parents the unfathomable heartache of losing a child.
Sevey and others who organized Thursday's rally also want a state law requiring homeowners to fence their pools. Some cities have pool-fence ordinances while others do not. Some ordinances grant some leeway on types of pool barriers, allowing special back-door latches, for instance, in lieu of fences.
Pool-fence law backers insist such legislation would save lives, and that may be true. It is also true that some drownings have occurred in fenced pools. Sometimes gates are defective or young children figure out how to get through them. Sometimes a parent or guardian is distracted for a few minutes.
The stark truth is that while some children can get around pool barriers, there's no getting around the importance and effectiveness of parental responsibility and supervision when it comes to child safety.
Responsible pool ownership includes making sure one's own young children, or neighbor kids, cannot slip into your pool unnoticed. That means making sure yard fences and gates are adequate and properly secured. It may mean fencing the pool itself, or installing special spring-loaded latches on back doors. It may also include installing a pool cover or alarm, just to be safe.
Responsible parenthood includes keeping track of your kids in your home, your yard and in your neighborhood. It means getting your kids water-safe as soon as possible, and teaching them the dangers of being in or near water without supervision.
Legislation may help. But it is no substitute, as the name of this month's campaign implies, for awareness.