MAY 27, 2015

First quarter drowning fatalities half of 2014

Water safety official hopes trend to continue, warn not to be complacent

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Maricopa County drowning incidents and fatalities took a nosedive in 2013 and the trend seems to be happening again in 2015, according to stats collected by the Children’s Safety Zone for the Drowning Prevention Coalition of Arizona. 

Pediatric and child fatalities are half of what they were by April 30, 2014.  In 2014, there were 12 deaths, which included children and 6 adults.  This year, there have been 6 fatalities; 2 pediatric and 4 adults. 

drowning fatalities chart
Members of the DPCA speculate that because 2014 temperatures turned hot early, this likely led to seeing higher numbers early on in the year.  So far in 2015, the cooler weather may be causing less attraction to the water and therefore water-related incidents. Although these numbers are trending in the right direction, even one incident is too many.

“We must ramp up our awareness and education efforts now, before it gets hot and we start seeing a spike in these numbers,” says Melissa Sutton, DPCA Board member.  “With Memorial Day Weekend around the corner, we must reinforce the drowning prevention message to our friends, family members, neighbors, colleagues and community!”

There was a notable increase in open water incidents in 2014, so it is especially important to target those heading out to enjoy Arizona lakes and rivers.

One program to launch in 2014 and will continue strong efforts in 2015 is through the efforts of the Ryan Thomas Foundation – getting life jacket loaner kiosks out at our local lakes.  This was a collaborative effort between the Ryan Thomas Foundation, DPCA and the department of Fish and Game. Kiosks have been built at Saguaro Lake and Lake Pleasant with the plans of having them in at Apache, Bartlett, Canyon and Roosevelt lakes by the end of 2015.

DPCA wants to remind everyone to remain vigilant throughout the year.  Drownings, especially in Arizona, happen year-round and do not target a specific demographic.  They can happen anywhere, to anyone.

“Every year we lose at least twice as many adults than children. Everyone needs to know how to be safe around the water. Additionally, barriers remain one of most common broken links in the injury prevention chain,” says Lori Schmidt, DPCA president. “The lack of pool fences across the Valley is alarming. There are too many pools left unprotected because they were grandfathered in or city ordinances provide loopholes.”

The DPCA stresses that families should take a 3-pronged approach to drowning prevention: Block, Watch, Learn.

• Block: Block access to water hazards. Put fences around pools, use protective covers on spas, close bathroom doors, and dump out water buckets.
• Watch:  Watch each other around water. Neither adults nor children should swim alone.  And if you lose track of children, always check your water hazards first. 
• Learn: Learn CPR and ensure all family members know how to swim.

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