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The American Red Cross today launched a new national campaign to reduce drownings, urging people to make sure they and their families can swim safely. This multi-year, sustained campaign marks 100 years of Red Cross swimming safety education.
“As we all gear up for trips to the pool, beach, rivers and lakes, we’re asking that adults here in Minnesota make water safety a priority this summer,” said Phil Hansen, Regional Chapter Executive of the American Red Cross Northern Minnesota Region. “Families need to make sure that both adults and children have the knowledge and skills they need to be safe in and around the water.”
The new Red Cross drowning prevention campaign comes at a time when a new national survey shows that people believe they are better swimmers than they actually are. The survey, conducted for the Red Cross, found that while 80 percent of Americans said they could swim, only 56 percent of the self-described swimmers can perform all five of the basic skills that could save their life in the water.
These critical water safety skills, also known as “water competency,” are the ability to: Step or jump into the water over your head; Return to the surface and float or tread water for one minute; Turn around in a full circle and find an exit; Swim 25 yards to the exit; and Exit from the water. If in a pool, be able to exit without using the ladder.
Every day, around 10 people die from unintentional drowning in the United States. Twenty percent of those who drown are children 14 or younger, according to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In the U.S., drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional death for children and the sixth for people of all ages. In Minnesota, 40 people drowned from non-boating, water emergencies in 2012, according to statistics from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
Overall, the Red Cross survey finds that more than half of all Americans (54 percent) either can’t swim or don’t have all of the basic swimming skills. Other key survey findings are:
• One in three (33 percent) African-Americans reports that they can perform all five basic swimming skills, compared to 51 percent of white Americans. The survey showed that 84 percent of whites and 69 percent of African-Americans say they can swim.
• Just four in ten parents of children ages 4-17 report that their child can perform all five basic swimming skills, yet more than nine in 10 (92 percent) say that their child is likely to participate in water activities this summer.
• Men are significantly more likely than women to report that they have all five basic swimming skills (57 percent for men compared to 36 percent of women.)
The survey found that nearly half of Americans (46 percent) report that they have had an experience in the water where they were afraid they might drown. In addition, one in five (19 percent) said they knew someone who had drowned, and 20 percent knew someone who nearly drowned.
Many People Planning Summer Water Activities in Areas Without Lifeguards
The new Red Cross drowning prevention campaign begins as summer gets underway, and eight out of 10 Americans are planning water activities such as going to the beach, pool, water park, or boating or fishing this summer. A third (32 percent) of all Americans plan to swim at a place this summer without a lifeguard.
While stronger swimming skills would reduce the risk of drowning, the Red Cross survey found that only two percent of adults plan to take swimming lessons this summer, and about one in five children (20 percent) are likely to take swimming lessons this summer.
“Parents and caregivers should take advantage of the summer months to enroll children in Red Cross swim lessons and download the free Red Cross Swim App to track their progress,” Hansen said. “Parents and caregivers, in addition to learning how to swim, should also know critical water safety rules and know how to respond to a water emergency, so they can protect children and others.”
The Red Cross also announced it will seek to reduce the drowning rate by 50 percent in 50 cities in 19 states that have high numbers of drowning deaths or high drowning rates by teaching 50,000 more people to swim in those communities over the next three to five years.
Red Cross swimming lessons help people develop skills and water safety behaviors that help people be more comfortable and safe when they are in, on and around the water. The Red Cross encourages all household members to enroll in age-appropriate water orientation and Learn-to-Swim programs. Visit http://www.redcross.org/mn/minneapolis/aquatics to find a provider of Red Cross swimming lessons near you. Or, contact your local aquatic facility and ask for American Red Cross swimming and water safety programs.
The national public opinion survey was conducted for the Red Cross April 17-20, 2014 using ORC International’s Online CARAVAN omnibus survey. The study was conducted among a national sample of 1,024 American adults, including 201 parents of children aged 4-17. The total sample is balanced to be representative of the US adult population in terms of age, sex, geographic region, race and education. The margin of error for the total sample of 1,024 adults is ±3.1 percent; the margin of error for the sample of 201 parents is ±6.9 percent.