Chandler firefighters have undertaken a massive campaign to reach every home in the city by the end of this month to help curtail what they say appears to be an alarming increase in the number of child drownings.
Fire Chief Jeff Clark said he personally would oversee the effort, initiated after reports of five drownings in the first 10 weeks of this year. Three of the incidents were pool related, one occurred in a bathtub and one in a neighborhood lake. The city typically has five drownings or near-drownings in an entire year.
Firefighters plan to deliver warning information to 80,000 homes; they also operated a booth at this year’s Ostrich Festival, where 100,000 visitors were expected.
Batt. Chief Paul Nies, who will help coordinate the door-to-door campaign, said experience suggests a correlation between heightened education and a reduction in pediatric drowning incidents.
“Statistically, we can show that when we ramp our efforts up, we can see drownings decrease,” he said.
While the loss of the Fire Department’s public educator due to budget cuts two years ago can’t be directly blamed for the recent increase in drownings, Nies said, there does seem to be a connection.
“We can’t say we saw spikes this year because we didn’t have public education. But I do know that, when our firefighters are out on the street, awareness goes up and people become more focused.”
Among other points that firefighters will try to make is that a simple lack of concentration by parents or caregivers can have tragic results. “If we can just succeed in making people more focused, that’s a big step in helping to minimize the problem,” he said.
Chief Clark said the early onset of drowning incidents has had him particularly concerned.
“We don’t expect to respond to this many water-safety calls during a typical year, but it is especially troubling to have these happen during the winter months,” he said.
“We want to mobilize the community and stop this alarming trend now, before summer gets here and the water becomes an even bigger attraction for kids.”
Educational efforts, public appearances and the involvement later this month of volunteers in wrapping up the door-to-door campaign are directed primarily at adults who bear the responsibility to secure their pools, supervise the children in their care, teach them how to swim, and learn cardiopulmonary resuscitation, according to Clark.
“If we can get everyone to remember and follow our message, ‘Eye-to-Eye to Supervise,’ then our campaign will be successful,” Clark said.
“Direct adult supervision is the best way to protect children from drowning. If adults keep their focus as they interact with children anywhere around water, we will save lives.”
Throughout March, Fire Department personnel will be emphasizing pool safety and water awareness to Chandler residents by speaking with them in a variety of venues, such as grocery stores, parks, schools, homeowner association meetings, and during door-to-door visits.
Then, on Saturday, March 26, community volunteers will join firefighters in walking their neighborhoods and sharing a message of personal responsibility for preventing child drownings.
A door-hanger promoting the campaign will be left on every door.
“Our neighborhood walk is something that Chandler schools, service clubs, non-profit agencies, churches and businesses can get behind to make a difference.
“We need everyone to step up and make this happen,” Clark said.
Prospective volunteers can call 480-782-2122 to participate in the neighborhood walks. Participants will convene at the Chandler Fire Training Center at 3550 S. Dobson Road between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. on the day of the march.
Fire Department staff will assign small groups of volunteers to specific neighborhoods and provide maps, door hangers and other informational materials. Volunteers must provide their own transportation to the neighborhood they are assigned.
Additional water safety tips and drowning prevention information is available on the Fire Department website at www.chandleraz.gov/fire