With people staying at home more often because of the COVID-19 pandemic, officials stress this is a time where parents and caregivers should take heightened precautions when their children are near water.
Backyard pools are not the only sources of water that adults should shield their children from. Toilets, bathtubs and buckets of water are also among the things that can be potentially hazardous to children.
In April, a 2-year-old girl was found unresponsive in an irrigation-type canal in Buckeye. Her family was distracted when they were doing yard work. The girl was pulled out of the water and suffered severe injuries.
Even though this drowning did not occur in a backyard pool, the cause is still the same as a pool drowning.
“What I see mostly is people fail to watch their children constantly,” Buckeye Fire Captain Tommy Taylor said.
In May, an 18-month-old boy drowned and died in a bathtub in an Avondale home.
“The main cause (of child drownings) is no active supervision,” said Susan Anglin, the Avondale Fire community outreach coordinator.
In September 2019, a toddler was found drowning in a backyard pool in Goodyear. Although the girl survived, she suffered brain damage as a result of her drowning.
“A lot of times we underestimate how quickly a child can just disappear,” said Tanja Tanner, the Goodyear Fire community risk reduction coordinator.
Anglin expressed how people have told her that they need not worry about their child drowning because they don’t have a pool in the backyard. Things like bathtubs, toilets, pet water dishes, buckets and fountains require just as much supervision as a backyard pool, she said.
If a home has a sliding glass door that opens onto the patio and leads to the pool, caregivers can install electronic monitors so whenever the door is opened the monitor beeps.
Anglin also emphasized the importance of CPR and that although the Avondale fire department has a great response time of five minutes or less, it is what happens in those few minutes that make all the difference.
“It’s the first few minutes that set up how things are going to go. And even if you don’t know CPR, call 911 and dispatchers can help you. They can tell you what to do right there,” Anglin said.
And because of COVID-19, Anglin said, “I think that with people staying at home there’s definitely a greater potential for danger.”
Though pool fences can help prevent a child from drowning, they are still almost never enough, Taylor explained.
“Those are just barriers, and kids are pretty resilient to try to figure out ways of getting the things they want,” he added.
Taylor also believes that because people are staying at home more often due to coronavirus, they should be taking pool safety even more strictly.
“I think that it is (important to take pool safety more seriously when staying at home) because people are around the house more and they are complacent when they’re in their normal surroundings,” Taylor said. “They might be working from home and get distracted from other things, and that’s definitely a possibility.”
Twice a year, Buckeye Fire performs a mock drowning in Downtown Buckeye, where someone appears to be drowning and lifeguards will engage lifesaving procedures. (Taylor said he doubts that there will be any this year due to COVID-19.)
CPR training is available through the department’s administration office. Buckeye’s aquatic center is closed and is currently developing a plan to safely open later in the summer.
In May, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission released a report detailing reported drownings and estimated nonfatal drowning injuries across the nation. The data in the report showed that on average, 379 children under the age of 15 died because of pool or spa submersions annually from 2015 through 2017.
In addition, for 2017 through 2019, an estimated annual average of 6,700 children younger than 15 were treated in hospitals for nonfatal pool and spa drowning injuries.
Tanner, like Taylor and Anglin, believes that during these times of staying at home, families, especially those with young children, should take higher precautionary measures when dealing with water safety.
“Especially with the COVID-19 and being at home or just in the summertime, we just get complacent and we just think that the door is locked,” Tanner said.
“We’re at home more. To refresh and to understand, it happens to the rich, it happens to the poor,” she added. “It’s kind of like fires. It doesn’t matter your background; it’s just (that) kids are quick.”