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Anti-drowning campaign paying off in lives saved

But Scottsdale should help those who lack resources to fence pools

Aug. 8, 2005

All that vigilance is paying off. The rate of child drownings in Maricopa County has dropped to an all-time low, according to last year's statistics, and this year could be even lower.

This great news means that public awareness programs are having the desired effect.

The constant reminders are getting the message across.

Television weather forecasters repeatedly tell viewers to "Watch Your Kids Around Water." The "Adopt-A-Fence" program run by the United Phoenix Fire Fighters Association raises money to install fences for needy families.

Adopt-A-Fence is partially funded by the "Build a Fence, Save a Life" program, which is sponsored by the Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust, 12 News and The Arizona Republic.

The Republic also is a sponsor of "Target Zero," a program aiming to eradicate drownings.

Last year in Scottsdale, five children under the age of 5 were involved in what is called a "water-related incident."

That means that 911 was called, CPR was performed and the child was brought to the hospital. While keeping that number out of double digits is cause for celebration, it's also five too many.

Many young families are attracted to the affordable homes in south and central Scottsdale. Many of these homes built in the 1960s and early 1970s don't have pool barrier fences.

The fledgling Scottsdale Fire Department doesn't have a fence program like Phoenix's. Having just launched the department on July 1, that's understandable. But department leaders should consider working with local fence companies to start one.

Pool fences will not prevent every drowning. Adult supervision always is a must. Still, the Arizona Child Fatality Review Team found that from 1995 to 1999, only four of 81 drowning deaths of children younger than 5 occurred in backyard pools that had an adequate pool fence and a properly functioning, locked gate.

So while a fence is not a replacement for the eyes and ears of a parent, it helps. Scottsdale should do what it can to lend a hand to families who might need a little financial assistance for the investment.
Reproduced with permission from:
The Arizona Republic
By Stephanie Paterik
Copyright 2003 Arizona Republic

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