By Brooke Curley
SAFFORD – School is out and the pools are open, but there is no lifeguard in your backyard.
The Drowning Prevention Awareness Coalition (D’Pac) works within the community to bring drowning awareness to the Gila Valley. D’Pac Director Rachel Jacob told Gila Valley Central that parents need to take their attention away from every distraction and back to their kids.
“To all parents, watch your children whilst swimming,” Jacob said. “Stay off your phone!”
Jacob also stresses the importance of teaching a child to survival swim, and that parents should only use life jackets as flotation devices and teach life-saving techniques.
“Teach your child to survival swim,” Jacob said. “Life jackets will save lives, anything else are only flotation toys. Teach all your family members and friends CPR. Teach your children how to dial 911 and ensure they know their address.”
When it comes to the local drowning danger areas, Jacob said most people’s backyards are rife with danger. Many parents let their children wander around in a carefree fashion to play in the canals and ponds, those seemingly innocent locations are the most dangerous.
“Gila Valley children and young adults drown in canals and our swimming holes,” Jacob said. “Stay out and away from all canals. Adults, watch your child around canals. Children are not to watch children around water. Drowning is a preventable tragedy. Take measures to prevent losing a child.”
Canals are dangerous areas for children. The Gila Valley is a farming community full of canals and ditches. Just because a child can stand in the water with his or her head above it, doesn’t mean that it is safe. If the canal current is too strong, a child may be swept into an underground tunnel, and if there is a grate at the end of the tunnel, the child will be trapped and die. Letting children play in a canal is dangerous and should be avoided.
In America, there are roughly 10 drowning deaths every day. Ironically, more people die of drowning in Arizona than in California. In the United States, one in every five people who die of drowning are 14-years-old or younger. Alongside the one child that drowns daily, five more children are brought to the hospital for treatment for non-fatal submersion injuries. Although these injuries are not fatal, they can cause severe brain injury resulting in learning disabilities and possibly a permanent vegetative state. In Arizona, drowning is the leading cause of death to all children under the age of 14.
Jacob also wanted to remind the locals of the Gila Valley that drinking and water sports don’t mix and usually end tragically.
D’Pac would like to remind you: “Kids alive – Do the five”
1: Stay away from canals
2: Lock pool gates
3: Learn how to resuscitate
4: Teach your children to swim when young
5: Watch your children around water
- Never leave children alone in or near the pool or spa, even for a moment; close supervision by a responsible adult is the best way to prevent drowning in children.
- Whenever children under age 5 are in or around water, an adult – preferably one who knows how to swim and perform CPR – should be within arm’s length, providing “touch supervision.”
- Install a fence at least 4 feet high around all four sides of the pool. The fence should not have openings or protrusions that a young child could use to get over, under or through.
- Make sure pool gates open out from the pool, and self-close and self-latch at a height children can’t reach. Consider alarms on the gate to alert you when someone opens the gate. Consider surface wave or underwater alarms as an added layer of protection.
- The safest fence is one that surrounds all four sides of the pool and completely separates the pool from the house and yard. If the house serves as the fourth side of the fence, install an alarm on the exit door to the yard and the pool. For additional protection, install window guards on windows facing the pool. Drowning victims have also used pet doors to gain access to pools. Keep all of your barriers and alarms in good repair with fresh batteries.
- Keep rescue equipment (a shepherd’s hook – a long pole with a hook on the end — and life preserver) and a portable telephone near the pool. Choose a shepherd’s hook and other rescue equipment made of fiberglass or other materials that do not conduct electricity.
- Avoid inflatable swimming aids such as “floaties.” They are not a substitute for approved life jackets and can give children and parents a false sense of security.
- Children over age 1 may be at a lower risk of drowning if they have had some formal swimming instruction. However, there is no evidence that swimming lessons or water survival skills courses can prevent drowning in babies younger than 1 year of age.
- The decision to enroll a child over age 1 in swimming lessons should be made by the parent based on the child’s developmental readiness and exposure to water, but swim programs should never be seen as “drown proofing” a child of any age.
- Avoid entrapment: Suction from pool and spa drains can trap a swimmer underwater. Do not use a pool or spa if there are broken or missing drain covers. Ask your pool operator if your pool or spa’s drains are compliant with the Pool and Spa Safety Act. If you have a swimming pool or spa, ask your pool service representative to update your drains and other suction fitting with anti-entrapment drain covers and other devices or systems. See PoolSafely.gov for more information on the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act.
- Large, inflatable, above-ground pools have become increasingly popular for backyard use. Children may fall in if they lean against the soft side of an inflatable pool. Although such pools are often exempt from local pool fencing requirements, it is essential that they be surrounded by an appropriate fence just as a permanent pool would be so that children cannot gain unsupervised access.
- If a child is missing, look for him or her in the pool or spa first.
- Share safety instructions with family, friends and neighbors.