Apartment complex buys life vests for pool, partners with Mesa Fire and Medical Department

Katie Geideman watched from the edge as her four children swam at Sun Valley Ranch’s main pool – Jonathan, 9, and Devon, 7, on their own and 2-year-old twins Lily and Taylor with new borrowed life vests.

U.S.-Coast-Guard-approved life vests have been purchased by the apartment complex for tenants to borrow while in the pool area, according to Joann Basham, community manager at Sun Valley Ranch, 7353 E. University Drive. The complex has 308 apartments and two pools.

Ms. Geideman likes that the life vests are available.

“Most definitely,” she said. “Make sure your kids are safe. I have four kids and it is hard to watch them 24/7.”

Mesa Fire and Medical Department kicked off Drowning Impact Awareness Month by partnering with Sun Valley Ranch and Sonora Canyon Apartments, 265 N. Gilbert Road, for a new water-safety program. MFMD officials met with residents at both apartment complexes Saturday, Aug. 9, to explain the life vest loaner program and to show how to put them on children.

Arizona has had 35 deaths, including 11 children, resulting in 112 water-related incidents from January to July 2014, according to the Children’s Safety Zone, http://childrensafetyzone.com. In Mesa alone, there were four fatalities and 12 total incidents this year according to the Children’s Safety Zone, Capt. Forrest Smith, MFMD public information officer, said in a press release.

Apartment residents were instructed by MFMD on water safety and the correct fit of a life vest; adults received a water-safety bag and children received an activity book. The program’s goal is to increase awareness of the importance of using a life vest in and around water in addition to direct adult supervision while reducing the number of drownings in community pools, Capt. Smith said in the release.

For information on MFMD, go to the website. For information on Drowning Impact Awareness Month, go to the website.

MFMD reminds adults and children of the ABCs of water safety:

  • Adult supervision: Ensure all children have a designated water watcher who keeps eyes on them at all times around water.
  • Barriers: Install pool fences, locks and gates.
  • Classes: Learn CPR and take swim lessons from an early age. MFMD offers free CPR classes.

Firefighters from Fire Station No. 213, 7816 E. University, east of Sossaman Road, brought a fire truck to Sun Valley Ranch in part to allow the children to tour it. They were Capt. Julie Burns, Capt. Jeff Stieber, Firefighter Danna Cravens and Firefighter Hector Moreno.

Lela Hinds Peterson, of MFMD’s Fire and Life Safety Education department, put the life vests on children at Sun Valley Ranch including her daughter, Lailoni Peterson, 11; Lily and Taylor; Keira Harwood, 7; and Alyssa Harwood, 11.

“I can swim with it too,” Alyssa said of the life vest.

The Sun Valley Ranch apartment complex bought six vests and plans to buy six more, Ms. Basham said.

She recalled how a childhood friend drowned in a pool.

“She wasn’t supervised properly and she didn’t wear her vest,” Ms. Basham said. “When Mesa Fire (and medical Department) asked us to be involved, I said ‘yes.’”

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