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Phoenix's Drowning Prevention Program in Jeopardy

December 29, 2009

The Phoenix Fire Department may have to shave 15 percent off its budget next year, which could put valley kids in danger. One of the programs that may have to go is drowning prevention.

The Phoenix Fire Department has 2,200 employees and a budget of $275 million. But after two straight years of cutting back, the department faces the prospect of even bigger cuts next year.

"We have been asked to put forward a 15 percent list which is about $36.6 million and that gets into a lot of our resources. Fire and emergency medical services, there is no way around it," says Phoenix Fire Chief Bob Khan.

Phoenix Fire's solution is to keep firefighters but cut prevention and education programs, including drowning prevention.

"The tough part about this is we can respond to drownings in one of two ways. We can educate the community and prevent the drownings from happening, or we respond with the paramedic engine company and treat the child that has drowned. You have got to be able to respond when somebody calls 911."

Safety groups fear the cutbacks could mean more child drownings.

"We will see more children dying and being permanently injured as a result," says Tiffaney Isaacson from Water Watchers.

Fire department officials say they have no choice. The proposed cuts would also affect investigations of fire-code complaints.

The cuts are expected to be finalized in February.

Reproduced with permission from:

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