Mar 242012

Water safety isn’t just a summer, warm-weather topic for Mesa Fire Capt. Paul Liddell. It’s a year-round lesson that has to be taught over and over again.

A vast majority of child drownings in Maricopa County happen in pools. But during his 16-year career with the Mesa Fire Department, Liddell said he’s also been on calls involving bathtubs and the Valley’s canal system.

Just once, Liddell said, he’d like to have a year go by without a water-related incident.

“It takes a toll on you. It would be great to go a summer without being involved in one. They’re probably one of the worst calls I’m ever going to go on,” Liddell said.

Liddell and his crew members take advantage of many settings to get the word out about the ABCs of water safety: in schools, when meeting families at the grocery store, or at community events.

The key is the “A” “ヤ adult supervision, Liddell said.

“Adult supervision is a big deal. You just can’t leave them. We go out and talk to people. We just try to stress and reiterate nothing, not pool fences, not anything (can protect a child alone). It starts with adult supervision, someone watching the kids all the time.”

The Valley has already seen three child drownings this year, one in a Phoenix pool in early March and two in a Pinal County canal in January.

There were no barriers “ヤ the “B” in the ABCs “モ in either situation.

The barriers should include a self-latching fence, swim lessons, and keeping toys away from the pool that might entice a child to go exploring.

Then there’s the “C.” It typically stands for CPR, Liddell said. But it also stands for community involvement and education.

“It impacts all of us,” he said. “When people see it on the news or read it in the paper, they gasp, “リThat could have been me. That could have been my child.’ It takes a group effort.”

Michele Long, who leads community education efforts for the Mesa Fire Department, said already this year there’s been a water-related incident in Mesa. A boy got into a pool during a family party.

“There was a party or barbecue going on and instead of having a designated water watcher, everyone assumed someone else was watching the children,” she said.

The child survived, but the incident points out the dangers, she said.

The Drowning Prevention Coalition of Arizona is pushing the “Water Smart Babies” program this year, encouraging pediatricians to talk to families with young children about the need for swimming lessons early on.

But again, Long and Liddell said, supervision is key.

“Anyone can drown at any age, but it’s a matter of using that as an additional layer of protection in case the child gets to the water,” Long said.

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