Firefighters push ABC's of Water Safety as Tucson pools open for summer

Updated: May. 27, 2018 at 8:24 PM MST
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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Are you prepared for the pool? Memorial Day weekend marks the unofficial start to summer and rescuers are putting out the warning.

It comes as family and Tucson firefighters were unable to save a two-year-old boy from drowning on May 19. The boy's family said he was unaccounted for, for about 10 minutes, when he was found floating in the pool.

It's the first reported child drowning of 2018 in Tucson, the Tucson Fire Department said.

At the Menlo Park Pool, on the west side of Tucson near Grande Avenue and Congress Street, staff is preparing for the influx of fun in the sun. On Sunday, May 27, young lifeguards spent the day cleaning the pool and deck as they get set to open to the public on Thursday, May 31.

Natalie Hall is in charge and enforcing the rules.

"My philosophy is that if we have to get in the pool to perform a rescue, a lot of things have already gone wrong up to that point," said Hall, the Menlo Park Pool supervisor.

But in the privacy of your home, Hall is not there to guard lives.

That's where Captain Julian Herrera of the Tucson Fire Department sees most of the problems.

"(Lifeguards are) on duty doing exactly what we ask them to do. Active supervision of people that are swimming. A lot of the incidents that we see are at residences when nobody is swimming but a small child is able to get away from whoever is supervising them, get into a pool for a certain amount of time," Herrera said. "It can happen to anybody, anytime, any place. It's very easy to get complacent and just think it's not going to happen to a particular set of people. It can and it does."

The Tucson Fire Department sticks to an acronym to remind people what to do: The ABC's of Water Safety.

• A-ADULT SUPERVISION: Designate one responsible adult who is dedicated to watching the kids around water. The "Water Watcher" should have a whistle or ribbon, something to remind themselves they are responsible for the safety of kids in water. This also means no drinking alcohol, talking on the phone or texting. We know it sounds strict, but there is no room for compromise on this one. Babies can drown in as little is one inch of water.

• B: BARRIERS TO WATER: Barriers will ensure a curious child stays safe around water. Do not get in the habit of propping a gate open. If you do, your peace of mind and the security of the barrier is compromised. An inconvenience for you to use two hands to open a gate means security and safety for children.

• C: CLASSES FOR SWIMMING AND CPR: Parents have a million things to do, but learning CPR should be on the top of the list. It will give you tremendous peace of mind – and the more peace of mind you have as a parent, the better. Take time to teach kids to swim. Starting at a young age, kids can learn water safety to help them in case of an emergency.

"We found most times, when we do have any type of drowning, one of those things or more than one have been missed," Herrera said. "It seems like it's a message we repeat every year. We're going to continue repeating it. Be aware, don't get complacent, and take precautions so that ?we don't have any sort of tragedy."

How dangerous is it? The Arizona Department of Health Services said that among children 1-4 years of age, drowning was the leading cause of death both from unintentional injury and among all categories of death in Arizona.


And when the Menlo Park Pool opens Thursday, Hall and her staff will be on the lookout to keep you safe in their home.

"Because everything is preventable," she said. "As long as the people have the information, know the rules, and understand the reasons for the rules, then we usually have a good, safe, happy summer."

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