Kid Drownings

After decades of failure, the well-intentioned still don't get it

For the first time, the Maryvale issue was addressed. A single article in the series noted in passing: "There was a cluster of nine drownings in a 13-square-mile area of west Phoenix." The article also stated obliquely that the rate of children drowning in that 13-square-mile area was higher than in a comparably sized block of the East Valley. Maryvale itself was never mentioned by name. Maryvale's unfenced pools were never mentioned. Maryvale's historic role in drowning statistics was not mentioned.

This June, the Republic started a campaign called Target Zero. The campaign was sponsored by Channel 12, azcentral.com, SRP, Univision and La Voz. Target Zero fliers were posted on Arizona Republic stands all over town, and the paper ran full- and half-page ads for the campaign regularly.

Maryvale was identified for the first time in 2002, in the Arizona Republicin a sidebar that accompanied the principal story, in a bullet within the sidebar.

The article, which credited the Target Zero campaign for the drop in drowning, had a sidebar naming a "coalition of city officials, police, firefighters, hospitals, school officials and community leaders" had focused on the Maryvale problem because "there has been a disproportionate number of drownings."

Once again, the issue of pool fences was never mentioned, nor was Maryvale's historic role cited.

According to Jeannine L'Ecuyer, the fire department coordinator of the recently formed Water Safety Task Force, a community coalition did a great deal of on-the-ground work in Maryvale. In addition to this effort, they also put on several events in Maryvale at malls and parks to get out a CPR video, water safety information, and address people on a more personal level. L'Ecuyer says, "We got them face to face and said, Please do us a favor and watch your kids.'"

The coalition did not focus on fences.

The task force had materials in English and Spanish, and went to where the problem was the worst -- canvassing a neighborhood in Maryvale the day after a 2-year-old boy drowned. "We wanted to use that fresh reminder of how easy it is, and how close it is," says L'Ecuyer.

When asked if this year's effort worked, L'Ecuyer laughs. "That's the $60,000 question, isn't it? We won't really know that for a few years. But we think sustained attention is the answer, so we try to hit people from all sides."

Fulton Homes currently sponsors Dave Munsey's Watch Your Kids Around Watercampaign on Fox, and also funds KTAR-AM's Two Seconds Is Too Long campaign. Fulton Homes is a Tempe-based homebuilder that builds mostly east of the 101, and in new areas such as Litchfield Park and areas of Peoria. The economic focus of the developer has never been Maryvale.

Douglas Fulton, president of Fulton Homes Sales Corporation, recently sponsored two programs to give away fences. One was called Fence Watch, which urged neighbors to rat out badly kept pools to KSLX-FM, which then referred the information to the fire department, which inspected the pool. The most needy pool each week was given a free pool fence. Fulton built a total of 12 fences. Only one fence was in Maryvale.

Fulton Homes tried to target Maryvale through Spanish radio, and also gave away 750 sets of free swimming lessons at the YMCA. "We realized that there were so many more drownings there and that maybe putting out Spanish ads would help," says Fulton. But there is no YMCA in Maryvale. The closest one to 85033 is more than 40 blocks away.

Leslie's Pool Supplies, which carries many water-safety products, also had a fence giveaway program. It teamed up with the firefighters to provide fences for people who wrote letters explaining their need. This campaign was called Help Us Save Them. A spokesman for the fire department was unable to locate their records, but thought approximately 15 of the 18 fences were built in Maryvale.

Assuming that Fulton Homes, Leslie Pools and the firefighters erected approximately 16 pools in the target area last year, it would take 100 years at the current rate to provide Maryvale with the margin of safety the CDC recommends.

Salt River Project is also in on the effort. It has been sponsoring drowning prevention efforts since it started in the Valley. It also sponsored Target Zero. Jennifer Martyn of SRP says that SRP has been involved in water safety for 100 years. Martyn says that SRP's involvement has always been closely tied to the fire department. "People trust things more when they're getting it from the fire department. We also sponsor several other campaigns, but we've always worked with the firefighters."

SRP's involvement has been one of both cash and trade, the only sponsor that has consistently asked the fire department what was needed and provided the cash to purchase it. It has paid for printing in English and Spanish, reproduction of more than 15,000 CPR videotapes (also in both languages), creation of other items such as can coolers, and has also given time to water safety events all over the Valley. But Martyn confirmed that no specific research had been done, that SRP generally asks the fire department what to do and does it. The good intentions are there, and could possibly be used more effectively if there were a specific understanding of the Maryvale problem.

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4 comments
Diane Moore
Diane Moore

The solution to this is soooooo simple, yet seems to be too much trouble for these parents. All they have to do is WATCH their children... and be sure they are taught safety in and around water. My grandbaby is 2 1/2 years and can swim like a fish. He is just finishing an ISR Swimming course this week... I do NOT believe in fences, they give false security. I raised 5 extremely active (and sometimes naughty) children without a fence around our pool, and they are all grown up now... I can appreciate that parents are busy sometimes, but it only takes a few seconds to safely strap a baby/toddler in their high chair, or put a baby in their crib or playpen... and KEEP the doors and windows locked. When my grandbaby visits our home, I wear the key to the backyard around my neck... so I know its locked. Also, I am aware of where he is EVERY single second while he is in my care. Thats all there is to it.

Susan Freyer
Susan Freyer

Don't you sleep? Ever? Children get out when parents and children are supposedly sleeping. It happens. But yeah. It's sooooooo simple.

David Stone
David Stone

Or maybe it's the shitty parents who are having too many kids? Jesus Christ, you fucking Arizona idiots make me sick.

Family
Family

were u with my cousin when this happened? what was her reaction? where was steven ( her Husband) or clifford? what did she say? i dont mean to bother you or bring up something unpleasent but i have heard it was no accident what happened to the boys. and i am trying to find out the truth

 
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