Temperatures are rising in Arizona. And as swimming becomes more tempting, water safety is crucial to protect young lives.
Glendale has lost several children to drowning already this year, with other close calls.
In February, an 18-month-old boy suffered nonfatal injuries after his sister pulled him out of the family’s pool.
On April 8, a 2-year-old girl died after drowning in the family’s pool. In this case the girl’s mother was distracted and her father was doing backyard work.
In May, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission released a report detailing reported drownings and estimated nonfatal drowning injuries across the nation.
The data in the report showed that on average, 379 children under the age of 15 died because of pool or spa submersions annually from 2015 through 2017.
In addition, for 2017 through 2019, an estimated annual average of 6,700 children younger than 15 were treated in hospitals for nonfatal pool and spa drowning injuries.
According to Ashley Losch, a Glendale Fire Department spokeswoman, nonfatal does not mean harmless: “A child takes on water, does recover but doesn’t return to their normal state prior to the drowning. So maybe they have brain damage or are paralyzed.”
In May, another tragedy occurred. A family from out of state was renting an Airbnb in north Glendale. The family of 12 was distracted when a 3-year-old girl slipped into the pool unnoticed. Firefighters attempted life-saving procedures, but the girl was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital.
Losch blames the majority of child drowning incidents on adults being distracted.
“We live in a world where we are connected to our phones and looking at our computers and looking into our televisions, constantly trying to take on information and it’s easy to get distracted by something and the child gets out of view because truly drowning just takes moments and distractions take just that long as well,” Losch said.
From 2010 through 2019 there were 48 total drownings in Glendale, according to data provided by the Arizona Department of Health Services. Sixteen of them were younger than 18.
A child drowning is a very fast and quiet tragedy, Losch said. For example, if a back door has a doggy door, parents should make sure it is sealed. Adults also should store any toys or rafts that would entice a child to go back into the pool unnoticed.
Losch said parents and caregivers should follow the basics of water safety and drowning prevention, which include adult supervision, barriers around the pool and classes.
Drowning prevention also includes incorporating a water watcher. This person is designated to watch the water to ensure that no children drown.
“Even when everyone gets out (of the pool), that person should still be watching the water because that’s when the kids slip back in,” Losch explained.
Losch said she believes the pandemic is a critical time to take precautions over children.
“I think we’ve seen a spike in tragedies that are involving children including drownings and part of that is that we have been home for an extended period of time, so we are complacent and comfortable,” Losch said.
“And so we don’t watch as closely and that has become our classroom and our living room and work station and all of the things that we used to separate have become one space.”