How drownings impact the community - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

How drownings impact the community

May 24th, 2021 development
How drownings impact the community

By the City of Chandler

Fatal drownings are a terrible tragedy, and when they occur, they leave a lasting impact on the community that is not easily forgotten.

For Chandler’s first responders, this fact is especially true.

Keith Welch, a battalion chief with the Chandler Fire Department, emphasized drownings are some of the most personally difficult incidents first responders have to experience.

“I have been on a few drowning calls in my career,” Welch said “I can tell you personally, they are the ones that stick with you.”

Because drownings are preventable, often happen to children and can occur when guardians are least expecting it, the emotional toll of shock and devastation is extremely high.

“From my perspective as a battalion chief, I am responsible for talking to the parents or the adult on a scene when something like this happens,” Welch said.

“Having to see it in the parent’s face when they are told that a child has passed away or is not breathing because of drowning, it really impacts us,” he added. “We can’t easily move on from those types of calls.”

Parents, families, friends, schools and every segment of the community are deeply affected by a fatal drowning.

“It’s absolutely devastating,” Welch said. “It is really such a hard way to lose someone.”

Because of the extreme time-sensitivity of a drowning call, Chandler fire stations sound a different siren tone to alert the crew they are heading to a drowning.

“Hearing that siren go off instantly lets us know the nature of the call,” Welch said. “It heightens our awareness, allows us to talk about what we’re going to do while moving, and enables us to respond immediately as we step off the truck with a detailed plan.”

Throughout Arizona, drownings are on the rise. The COVID-19 pandemic directly impacted drowning numbers; the state saw a 300 percent increase in drownings in 2020 over 2019.

With more families working and spending time at home, more kids home from school and more distractions for parents, children had more access to unsupervised water.

“COVID really hit the drowning community significantly across the board,” Chamberlain said.

Unfortunately, predictions indicate the rising trend may not quickly turn around as life returns to normal. In 2020, more people purchased backyard and pop-up pools than ever before.

According to Jessica Chamberlain, lead of Chandler Aquatics’ “Water You Doing” safety campaign, more pools and less education could lead to a continued spike in incidents of drowning.

While many incidents of drowning involve children, Chandler’s Fire Department responds to more adult drowning incidents each year than many people would think to assume. Adult drowning cases are most likely due to medical emergencies in the water, alcohol consumption or a combination of the two.

“We don’t recommend adults swim alone, even if they are seasoned swimmers,” Welch said. “You never know what could happen and when you may need help.”

For more resources on water safety and drowning prevention for children and adults, visit

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