On a sweltering summer day, there’s nothing more refreshing than going for a swim. Before you take the plunge, though, it’s important to learn the skills that will keep you safe. This week’s drowning of six teenagers in Louisiana is a tragic reminder of how dangerous water can be and the importance of learning to swim.
About 3,500 Americans drown each year, averaging ten deaths per day. More than one in five fatal drowning victims are children 14 and younger. A Red Cross survey from 2009 revealed that almost half of those polled nearly drowned in their lifetime. One in four people know someone who has drowned.
The Red Cross swimming and water safety program is set up to teach everyone—children to adults—how to swim. In addition, it covers basic water safety rules, how to tell if a swimmer is in distress or is drowning and how and when to call for emergency help. You also learn how to help someone in trouble in the water while keeping safe yourself.
Contact your local Red Cross chapter to find out which aquatic facilities in your area offer Red Cross swimming and water safety courses.
Water Safety Even if you already know how to swim, practicing water safety is always important. Follow these simple steps to enjoy the water safely this summer:
- Know before you go—don’t swim if you don’t know if it’s safe. Wear a life jacket if you are unfamiliar with the area.
- Always closely supervise children whenever they are near any body of water. Weak or inexperienced swimmers should wear U. S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets anytime they're around water.
- Swim with a buddy in a designated area that is supervised by lifeguards. Recheck the water and weather conditions on arrival and during your stay.
- Heed the warnings and special instructions of lifeguards or other authorities as well as flags or signs.
- Walk carefully into open waters; do not dive.
- Know how to respond to an emergency (including lifesaving CPR skills), how to tell if a swimmer is in distress or is drowning, and how and when to call for emergency help.
- If you have a pool or hot tub, keep lifesaving gear handy. Always have on hand a ring buoy, life jackets, rope, pole or other object that can be used to help a person in trouble. Be sure to have a first aid kit, cordless phone and emergency contact information by the pool.
And remember, swimming in lakes, rivers and oceans can be safe and fun at a designated swimming area that is protected by lifeguards; however, if these elements are not in place, always assume that any natural body of water is too dangerous for swimming.