“Watch children around water.”
We know this, right? We know it means “any body of water” — from bathtubs and toilets to swimming pools, lakes and streams.
We know that it means “all the time” — not every second except the 30 it takes to run from the backyard patio to the kitchen for some more iced tea.
We know these rules are not negotiable. We know the stakes are high. We know that failure can take a life or so profoundly change it that families often splinter and break from the shear agony of guilt, blame, horror and grief.
So why are there still so many children involved in drowning and near-drowning accidents?
RAK Editor Kara Morrison recently interviewed Melissa Sutton, president of the Drowning Prevention Coalition of Arizona, for a story that will appear in our upcoming June/July “Summer Survival Guide” issue, which goes in the mail on May 23.
She asked Sutton, “What’s the biggest challenge to educating the public on water safety?”
“Drowning is silent, but there are many people who think it looks like the Hollywood version with a big splash and calls for help,” Sutton told her. “Drowning can happen to anyone, making it challenging to reach everyone with the message they need to hear the most for their situation. Drowning takes lives from all types of people. It looks different depending on your race, gender (more males die from drowning than females), poverty vs. wealth, generational choices (we know that there is only a 13 percent chance a child will learn to swim if their parent did not), access to water, etc.”
And here’s something you may not know: Sutton says the highest group at risk of drowning is the autism community. “With one in 68 children being diagnosed on the spectrum, this is a huge concern,” she says.
May is National Water Safety Awareness Month. And while water safety reminders are important all year round, the beginning of outdoor swim season is a particularly good time to review best practices to minimize the risk.
Three local events this month are set up to do just that.
Getting to the Pointe of Water Safety (Saturday, May 6)
The Drowning Prevention Coalition of Arizona has partnered with the Pointe Hilton Squaw Peak Resort to host an informational water-safety event this weekend that offers loads of fun for families looking to beat the heat. This a free family event offers participants a chance to enjoy the resort’s River Ranch Water Park, play water-safety games, get free water-safety kits, see CPR and rescue demonstrations and more. 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, May 6. Pointe Hilton Squaw Peak Resort, 7677 N. 16th St., Phoenix. preventdrownings.org.
Water Safety Awareness Day (Saturday, May 6)
Live in the East Valley? The City of Chandler is hosting this family-friendly afternoon celebrating the beginning of the summer swimming season. Enjoy free public swim time, games, water-rescue and CPR demonstrations, and swim testing to help parents determine appropriate levels for swim lessons. Noon-5pm. Free. Hamilton Aquatic Center, 3838 S Arizona Ave., Chandler. 480-782-2630 or chandleraz.gov.
Water Safety & Fun Day (Thursday, May 25)
Child & Family Resources in northwest Phoenix will transform its parking lot into a “water park” of sorts, with water-play activities for ages birth to 5, music, raffles, refreshments and community vendors representing water safety, swimming programs and CPR/first-aid. The free event is also a good chance for parents to learn about CFS, which offers a wide array of services designed to help build resilient children and families. 2830 W. Glendale Ave., Phoenix. 602-234-3941 or childfamilyresources.org.