With increased temperatures come the snakes. Experts say rattlesnakes in Southern Arizona are most active between April and October.

File photo Randy Metcalf/The Exp

Summer is just around the corner, and for many that means increased outdoor activities such as hiking and swimming.

While such activities are common practice during the warmer Tucson months, Northwest Fire District spokesman Adam Goldberg reminds the public of the dangers that may come along with the heat, and the precautions that should be taken.

This year, Northwest Fire District has responded to three water-related incidents, the most recent of which involved the death of a 3-year-old child who was found in a backyard swimming pool. The child was transported to a local hospital where attempts to revive her were unsuccessful. 

The incident was the first Tucson drowning this year. Two other non-fatal water-related incidents have also been reported.

In the drowning, a number of adults and other children were present at the household for a gathering. Goldberg said while more sets of eyes are often a good thing,



particularly when a pool is nearby, it can also lead to miscommunication.

“We’ve seen this before,” said Goldberg. “In the past, we responded to a resort within our jurisdiction where there were 40 to 50 people around the pool. Dad thought mom was watching the child, and mom thought dad was, and the child ended up unattended in the pool.”

In cases where no barrier exists around the pool, such as in the latest incident, Goldberg stressed awareness is critical.

 “Not applying blame, but in cases such as that, adult supervision has to be perfect,” said Goldberg. “We know there was a breakdown in communication. When we visit others’ homes, whether it’s friends, relatives, or for a birthday party, often we let that guard down and fail to assess potential hazards or ask tough questions of the host or hostess of things we may consider dangerous.”

During holidays and gatherings, the Northwest Fire District suggests at least one person be designated to provide constant supervision to children.  

In addition to childproofing a home, Goldberg suggests parents install a lockable fence around pool perimeters, learn CPR in case of an incident, and enroll children in swimming lessons, though lessons should not allow for a false sense of security.

In all cases, calling 9-1-1 immediately is always recommended. 

Goldberg reminds parents that recreational floating devices do not double as lifesaving devices.

In 2012, 15 water-related incidents occurred, four of which were fatal. These included three adults, who had medical-related episodes while in the swimming pool. One child also drowned. Two-thirds of the incidents involved children aged zero to 5 years old.

“We do not want to continue to get these calls,” said Goldberg. 

Goldberg said certain variables such as water temperature and a subject’s age can affect how long it takes an individual to drown. Still, in most cases mere minutes are often enough. 

“Within two minutes in the water, it is already affecting brain function,” said Goldberg.



Snake season

Another rising concern as summer approaches is the increase in snake activity. So far this year, one bite has been recorded. 

The rattlesnake tends to be most active between April and October, according to the Tucson Herpetological Society.

Thirteen species of rattlesnakes reside in Arizona, according to the Arizona Game and Fish Department. They often hide in brush or debris where packrats can be found. 

Goldberg recommends clearing out any debris and excess brush in yards.

Goldberg said people hiking and landscaping should use extra caution this time of year.

“If landscaping, look before you reach,” said Goldberg. “Use an instrument to clear an area. A lot of people are hiking this time of year, also. Wear boots and proper clothing to prevent low bites.”

If bitten, it is important to lower the heart rate.

“Don’t walk on it, and call 9-1-1 immediately,” said Goldberg.

Less than 1 percent of rattlesnake bites result in death, according to the Arizona Poison Control, but immediate action should still be taken.

The Center for Disease Control recommends the individual who has been bit by a rattlesnake lay or sit down with the bite below the level of the heart, wash the bite with soap and water, and cover the area with a clean, dry dressing.

Alternatively, a bitten individual should not further pursue the snake, nor wait for symptoms to appear before seeking medical attention. Slashing the wound with a knife, sucking out the venom, applying ice, and drinking alcohol as a painkiller are also not recommended by the CDC.

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