Summer is just around the corner and with it comes graduation parties, family get-togethers, holiday barbecues and, finally, back-to-school activities, and that means that distractions abound. When a swimming pool is added to the mix, summer fun can turn deadly — especially for young children.
Drowning is the leading cause of unintentional death in Arizona for children age 4 and under, generally in pool-related incidents; it is the second leading cause of unintentional death for children under the age of 12; and nationally, three children die each day as a result of drowning.
May is National Water Safety Month and with summer vacation on the horizon it the perfect time to raise awareness about how to be safe around water, and the Valley of the Sun YMCA (Y) is leading the way.
“In Arizona, the Valley of the Sun YMCA is known as the most accessible community resource to prevent drowning,” said Jackie Gizzi, executive director of Leadership Development & Risk Management at the Y. “Our free swim lessons program and Water Watcher tags give us the ability to teach more children and adults in the Valley the importance of being safe around water.”
The Y offers these top three water safety recommendations:
1 Swim lessons. Children who have formal swim lessons are 88 percent less likely to have a drowning incident. The Y says that drowning can happen nearly anywhere with standing water but encourages parents and caregivers not to keep children sidelined. Rather, equip them with the tools they need to be confident in and around water.
Summer water safety programs at the Y include swim lessons (6 months to adults) and swim team (5–18 years old). They also offer a year-round member benefit of free swim lessons for children 6 months to 36 months. In addition, as part of National Water Safety Month, the Y will offer two weeks of free swim lessons to the first 2,000 registrants at 13 Valley of the Sun YMCA branches the week of May 13–23. Visit www.valleyymca.org.
2 Parent supervision. The importance of having an adult designated to keep a lookout when children are in and around water cannot be overstated. And while drowning can happen any time of the year, June through August is peak time for drowning in Arizona. One safety tool, especially for those summertime parties and outings, is a designated “water watcher” — the Y is distributing 13,000 Water Watcher tags to Valley residents.
3 Barriers. Children are naturally curious, and a backyard swimming pool can be an attractive draw. A physical barrier to pool access is a first line of defense against drowning. In addition to a pool fence, a door alarm can add an extra layer of access prevention.
Beyond swim lessons, supervision and barriers, parents can level-up their water safety game with CPR classes. The American Red Cross (www.redcross.org) offers CPR classes around the Valley. For additional tips and resources, visit www.ymca.net/watersafety, www.apsp.org/nwsm or www.childrensafetyzone.com.