Feb 062011

The recent flurry of child drownings has left many of us shaken. Since the first of the year, seven children and one teen have already died in water-related incidents in Maricopa County.

“How can this happen so often?” my friends ask me, “why aren’t people getting the message? We need to do something!”

Maricopa County is a high-risk place for drownings, and even higher in a community like Ahwatukee Foothills. We see many sunny days, with weather that welcomes us to the backyard. The chance that you will find a pool in that yard is greater here than in most other states. Also, our demographics contribute – many young parents, with young children. All this adds up to Arizona’s title as second in the nation for child drownings.

Are people “getting the message” about water safety? I think they are, but we need to keep talking about it. If you look at the per-capita rate for child drownings, we see that our child drowning rate in recent years is at some of the lowest levels on record. Every drowning is preventable, so we need to keep working hard.

Here’s what you need to do, today:

When the pool gate is open:

  • Have a constant, capable supervisor. Really think about who should have this job before you give them the whistle, hat or “Water Watcher” tag. They should be sober, able to swim, old enough to supervise, able to perform CPR, and you should have more than one if there are many children in the pool.
  • Your Water Watcher should know what a drowning looks like. If a child is under water for too long, don’t assume he or she is playing, and don’t be embarrassed to make a rescue.
  • Ask your Water Watcher to stay within “touch distance” of children, to make a rescue right away, and should sit where he or she can see the whole pool.

When swim time is over:

  • Close the pool gate, and make sure it keeps children out, by checking to see if they can go over, under or through it.

Finally, the whole family needs to talk about a water safety plan. The children should learn to swim at the appropriate age, and the adults need to keep their CPR skills up to date.

Families can have help putting all the pieces together with a quick, custom 20-minute chat. It’s our “Playing it Safe” program, and you can schedule a presentation near you today.

For more information about the program, water safety or to request a Water Watcher tag, call (602) 546-1712 or email

Tiffaney Isaacson is the water safety coordinator for Water Watchers at Phoenix Children’s Hospital and vice president of the National Drowning Prevention Alliance. Reach her at (602) 546-1712

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