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Learning the ABC’s of water safety

(City of Mesa)

Editor’s note: Just last Saturday, May 13, at approximately 7 p.m. Mesa Police and Mesa Fire and Medical departments responded to the drowning of a 3-year-old found in the family’s Mesa pool. The child was immediately transported to the hospital. Unfortunately, repeated resuscitation efforts were unsuccessful and the child was pronounced deceased at the hospital.

As this was happening, MyNewsMesa.com asked the Mesa Fire and Medical Department to write a column we could share with our readers to help remind us all about staying safe around water.


Each year, we continue to hear stories about children drowning and we wonder, “How could such a thing happen? Why were they not watching the child?” What many may not be aware of, is that a drowning is silent and can happen in a matter of seconds … the turn of a head, the distraction of another child or thinking that another adult was sufficiently watching your child.

Michele Long

Drowning is the leading cause of unintentional death to children between the ages of 1-4 years, in Arizona. Per the Arizona Department of Health Services, from 2010-2015, 99 children, ages 1-4 years, died from drowning in Arizona. During those same years (2010-2015) in Maricopa and Pinal counties, which actively record their incidents, Arizona had a total of 943 drowning-related emergency calls, 559 were for children ages 1-5 years.

The fact is, a drowning can happen at any time to any one, regardless of age, race or socioeconomic group. While most people associate drowning with children, adults drown every year, too. In fact, more adults than children drown each year. Many times, with adults, alcohol and prescription drugs are not considered when people enter the water. Alcohol and drugs impair judgment, coordination and balance. Proficient swimmers of all ages can get exhausted or have an unexpected medical issue in the water. For this reason, no one should swim alone. The buddy system is best every time.

Learning the ABC’s of water safety and using layers of protection is a great place to start to be safer around the water.

A-Adult Supervision: Adults need to have eye-to-eye contact with children around all forms of water (pools, bathtubs, buckets, canals, etc.). They need to be close enough to reach the child in case an emergency occurs. Use a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life vest for all small children in and around the water. Never use the popular floaties sold at retail stores as they say directly on them that they are a toy and not a life-saving device. Floaties can easily pop and be pulled off.

In open bodies of water (lakes/rivers), adults need to use U.S. Coast Guard life vests as well, even if they know how to swim. Life vests come in many forms, use the one that works best for your activity.

B-Barriers: Supervision is critical but can fail. To prevent a drowning, multiple barriers should be placed between children and water. Barriers can include fences, alarms, door and window locks that are out of children’s reach, and self-closing, self-latching hardware on doors. Barriers around other forms of water include lids on buckets, locks on bathroom doors, and toilet locks. Always check the pool area first if you are missing a child.

C-Classes: For adults, this means CPR classes taken regularly to keep your skills fresh; for children and all nonproficient swimmers, learn how to swim and take a refresher at the beginning of each season.

If you lose track of a child, always check the water area first. If you find a person in trouble in the water:

  • Yell for help and get the person out of the pool or throw a floatation ring/pole/towel to them and pull them to the edge.
  • Call 911 immediately for medical assistance.
  • Begin CPR.
  • If you are not trained in CPR, follow telephone instructions from the 911 operator until the fire department arrives.

If you would like to learn more about water safety, contact our water safety coordinator at 644-2200 for more information.

Mesa Fire Department offers CPR classes or check with your local fire department nearest you for class information. You can also visit our website at mesaaz.gov/fire/cprcertification for more information. Registration is required.

– Michele Long is the Mesa Fire and Medical Department’s fire and life safety education administrator. She is a National Drowning Prevention Alliance board member and Drowning Prevention Coalition of Arizona advisory board member.

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