As the summer heat picks up in here in the Valley, kids will want to head to pools and other sources of water to cool themselves down. So now is a great time for a reminder about children and water safety. From January to early June, there had already been 21 child drownings in the Valley—and it’s just the beginning of summer.
Drowning claims the lives of more than 4,000 people in the United States every year. Although all age groups are represented, children (newborns to 4 years old) have the highest death rate due to drowning. Most incidents happen when a child falls into a pool or is left alone in the bathtub.
On the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, it is not uncommon for youth to venture into ditches, canals or the river. I myself remember swimming in the “the frying pan” and thinking it was the coolest thing ever. But these areas also pose water-safety hazards.
Swimming in ditches and canals can be treacherous, because there could be trash and dangerous debris, and you also could become trapped. That’s why the Community prohibits swimming in the ditches.
The Community has approximately 25 miles of open concrete ditches, which means almost everyone lives near one. They can be very tempting for children in the summer. SRPMIC Water Resource Division Manager Mike Byrd said that children have drowned in the ditches in the past.
“The sides of the ditches are slick, and it’s very difficult even for a grown man to get out, especially with fast-moving water, and this is where dangerous situations can happen for children and animals,” Byrd said.
Also, the water in the canals, ditches, rivers and lakes is not chlorinated and may become contaminated with sewage, animal waste, rainfall runoff, fecal accidents, and germs rinsed off the bottoms of swimmers. It is very important to avoid swallowing this water. You may develop eye, ear, skin, respiratory and wound infections. The most common symptom is diarrhea. Children, pregnant women, and people with compromised immune systems may contract severe illnesses that can be life-threatening.
As part of its Summer Canal Safety Campaign, the Salt River Fire Department (SRFD) will be speaking with children and their parents about the dangers of canal swimming and swimming unsupervised. So instead of swimming in the ditches, head to the Community pools.
Also, remember the “Rule of Two”:
• You can drown in as little as 2 inches of water.
• 2 seconds is 2 long not 2 be watching kids around water.
• Always swim in 2s.
The SRFD offers water-safety presentations to any group, department or organization that makes a request. For more information, call (480) 362-7290.
Water Safety Tips
• Learn to swim!
• Swim only in areas supervised by a lifeguard.
• Read and obey all rules and posted signs.
• Children or inexperienced swimmers should take precautions, such as wearing a U.S. Coast Guard–approved personal floatation device (PFD) when around the water.
• Watch out for the dangerous “too’s”—too tired, too cold, too far from safety, too much sun, too much strenuous activity.
• Set water safety rules for the whole family based on swimming abilities (for example, inexperienced swimmers should stay in water less than chest deep).
• Be knowledgeable of the water environment you are in and its potential hazards, such as deep and shallow areas, currents, obstructions and where the entry and exit points are located. The more informed you are, the more aware you will be of hazards and safe practices.
• Pay attention to local weather conditions and forecasts. Stop swimming at the first indication of bad weather.
• Use a feet-first entry when entering the water.
• Enter headfirst only when the area is clearly marked for diving and has no obstructions.
• Do not mix alcohol with swimming, diving or boating. Alcohol impairs your judgment, balance and coordination, affects your swimming and diving skills, and reduces your body’s ability to stay warm.
• Know how to prevent, recognize and respond to emergencies.
Source: American Red Cross