Like so many first fire departments in the far East Valley, Mr. Gomez has seen his share of drownings. Some have had happy outcomes. Some have not.
The drowning death May 15 in Glendale of a 17-month-old boy believed to have crawled outside through a built-in doggy-door to the backyard pool is a reminder that fatal accidents can happen anytime, anywhere to anyone. Between Jan. 1 and May 15 of this year in Maricopa and Pinal counties, there have been 36 water-related incidents, according to the website www.childrensafetyzone.com. Of those there were 12 deaths, including three children.
Children’s Safety Zone collaborates with local fire departments, hospitals and media to gather statistics and stories on water-related incidents and fatalities in Arizona.
During that time frame, the Queen Creek Fire Department responded to water-related pediatric calls (for ages 5 and younger) for two children. Rural/Metro Fire Department in Pinal County, which serves San Tan Valley, responded to one pediatric call. Mesa Fire Department has been the busiest this year, responding to three water-related calls — two pediatric calls and one for a child between 6-12 years. The Apache Junction Fire District, which serves AJ and Gold Canyon, has responded to two pediatric calls this year.
“That’s two too many,” Tina Gerola, the district’s public education coordinator, said in a phone interview last week. “Our target is zero.”
Drowning is the top cause of injury-related death for children across the United States, according to a press release from the Maricopa Fire Department about May being National Water Safety Month. More than 1,000 children drowned in 2006 nationwide, the release said. Arizona ranked second in the nation for child drownings. To reduce the number of water-related emergencies in San Tan Valley, RMFD acted as the driving force behind forming the San Tan Valley Public Safety Coalition last year. Its goal is to build a strong and safe community through ongoing events and safety campaigns, according to a story published Oct. 19 in the Independent.
“Rural/Metro started it with Southwest Ambulance, Air Evac, Banner Ironwood, the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office and the Johnson Ranch Homeowners Association,” Colin Williams, public information officer for RMFD, said during a phone interview last week. “We all come together for various events and public awareness campaigns, like the one held a month ago at the Circle K at Ironwood and Ocotillo.
“At the end of the day, it’s all about thinking about drowning prevention,” Mr. Williams continued. “People need to be super vigilant around children. There is no better supervision than direct eye supervision.”