Mar 082011

Surrounded by waterfalls, a water slide and lazy river, the idea was to have fun. But the message delivered was serious.

“We really want that message out to everybody,” Phoenix Fire Department Capt. Lisa Jones said. “It can happen to anybody, and everyone needs to learn to watch people around water.”

Hundreds gathered Friday at Pointe Hilton Squaw Peak’s Hole-in-the-Wall River Ranch to attend Phoenix’s 12th annual Water Safety Day. Activities included CPR and water-rescue demonstrations, swimming, games, and firetrucks and rescue boats on display.

Water Safety Day is put on each year by the Phoenix Fire Department, Phoenix Children’s Hospital and the Pointe Hilton Squaw Peak. It serves as a reminder to the community to watch children around water.

“Water Safety Day is a lot of fun,” said Teri Agosta, general manager of Pointe Hilton Squaw Peak. “And we always have a lot of representation here from the community.”

As summer arrives, public-safety departments strive to convey their water-safety message.

“We just want to send the message that you need to be diligent about watching your people around water at all times,” Jones said.

The Phoenix Fire Department has reported eight fatalities, three of which were children, due to water-related incidents this year. In 2010, there were 16 water-related fatalities, five of which were children, according to the Children’s Safety Zone website.

Tiffaney Isaacson, a representative from Phoenix Children’s Hospital, said there have been about the same number of water-safety related incidents this spring as there were in 2010, but more have been fatal.

Phoenix Fire Department has reported 25 water-related incidents this year. About 10 percent of survivors have an injury or impairment they will never recover from, Isaacson said.

“A few water-safety related incidents were clustered together this spring,” Isaacson said. “We’re hoping the momentum of that has stopped.”

Isaacson said that while the public may be familiar with water safety, the message produces results and needs to be repeated all summer long.

This year’s Water Safety Day began as a crowd gathered to watch Bill, the singing fireman. He taught children safety-related songs such as “911” and “Get Down, Get Low, Get Out.” He taught the ABC’s of water safety: Adult supervision, barriers and classes.

Paula Serna, a guest at the Pointe Hilton Squaw Peak from San Antonio, watched as her two sons, ages 5 and 11, sang and danced on stage. She said she had never attended something like Water Safety Day and felt the message was invaluable.

“You can’t take for granted they’re going to be OK in the pool,” Serna said. “Even if they are being monitored at all times, you never know what can happen.”

Serna said she felt that her duty as a parent was to make sure to watch her children around water at all times and make sure they learned to swim at an early age.

Phoenix Children’s Hospital set up booths that allowed children to take the water-safety pledge, in which they promised to learn to swim, never go swimming without an adult and never open a gate without an adult present.

The CPR demonstrations attracted parents who wanted to learn the most up-to-date CPR techniques. Fire Capt. Chris Flores taught the crowd a universal CPR technique that can be used on children and adults. Flores stressed the importance of CPR training.

“The brain dies in about four-six minutes,” Flores said. “That’s how long it usually takes the Fire Department to arrive. If nobody does anything before we get there, the individual has a much lower chance of surviving.”

The day ended with a drowning simulation. Guests were able to watch a re-enactment of the events that occur as the public-safety departments try to resuscitate the victim.

The partnership plans to hold another Water Safety Day at Pointe Hilton Tapatio Cliffs at the end of the summer, said Irine Krass, a Point Hilton representative.

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