Apr 052012

The drop in child-drowning deaths in Maricopa County in 2011 over the previous year has water-safety experts doing one thing: stepping up their pleas.

Sixteen children drowned in the county in 2011, compared with 20 in 2010. But the death of one child or one adult due to drowning is one too many, said Lori Schmidt, president of the Drowning Prevention Coalition of Arizona.

Tiffaney Isaacson, water-safety coordinator for Phoenix Children’s Hospital and president of the National Drowning Prevention Alliance, agrees.

“We don’t want the community to think we can stop. We always need that sense of urgency,” she said.

Firefighters, volunteers and those out to prevent drownings and near drownings are back this time of year, going door to door or holding water-safety workshops to spread the message of being careful around water.

That means being vigilant around bathtubs, pools, lakes and rivers.

It also means checking for water in landscape planters, buckets and even animal water dishes.

Those involved with the water-safety walks are handing out information for residents, hoping people will take the message to heart.

Although drowning incidents happen year-round, numbers are often highest from April through August.

Isaacson said that although drowning deaths of children in the county are down, near drownings are up. In 2010, there were 140 such incidents; last year, there were 180.

“And that’s not good,” she said.

As much as prevention efforts need to be made for children, she urges safety for teens and adults as well.

Schmidt, a public-education officer for Scottsdale, said that’s been a focus in her city, which had nine drownings in 2011: one teenager and eight adults.

On Saturday, Schmidt was in Scottsdale helping to organize a local Walk for Water Safety, a partnership between Valley fire departments and Cardon Children’s Medical Center in Mesa. The hospital has given tens of thousands of informational door hangers and wrist tags so communities across the state can distribute them to residents.

Tracey Fejt, injury-prevention coordinator at Cardon, said this year’s walk expanded to other parts of the state, including Tucson, Yuma and Casa Grande.

Schmidt said drowning prevention goes on throughout the year but residents may notice an increase during spring.

“We know that the end of March is when people start thinking it’s warm enough to get in (and swim), so we see a big push in prevention now through early April,” she said.

Having observed the careless actions of adults around water is something that drove Tina and Jan Bech out into the streets Saturday to talk to residents and leave door hangers about prevention.

“I can’t believe parents leave their young children unattended in pools and the hot tub,” said Tina, a volunteer with the Scottsdale Fire Department. “I’ve seen it several times.”

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