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Swim Safe this Summer

Children who have not learned to swim slip beneath the water easily and quietly, right in front of adults who are sitting poolside.

Sometimes, the circumstances of disaster are heartbreakingly mundane. There is not a terrible storm. There is not a fast moving fire. There is simply a body of water, a young child and a distracted caregiver. Last summer in Pennsylvania, according to the Consumer Products Safety Commission, nine children died in backyard swimming pools and spas. This statistic does not include those who were lost while swimming in natural bodies of water such as lakes and rivers, or playing in waves at the beach, but statistics from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) show that about 10 people die each day from accidently drowning and it is the fifth leading cause of injury deaths in the United States.

Parents of boys should take note: 80% of drowning victims nationwide are males. A large number of these are children between the ages of one and four. A CDC report examining statistics from 1999 to 2010 found that the risk of deaths by drowning is 48% higher on weekends. Also worth mentioning, African American children between the ages of 5 and 19 are 3 times more likely to die as a result of drowning than their white counterparts.

The American Red Cross Southeastern Pennsylvania (SEPA) is committed to reducing drowning deaths in our area. In keeping with our preparedness mission, we want caregivers to understand the risks that water poses to children of all ages but especially to toddlers and preschoolers. Anyone who has ever parented or babysat a small child knows how easy it is to lose track of them. Extra vigilance is required when there is a pool or body of water nearby. Children who have not learned to swim slip beneath the water easily and quietly, right in front of adults who are sitting poolside. SEPA encourages parents and babysitters to seek out CPR training in case of a water emergency. Also, residential pool owners should place appropriate barriers around pools to keep unsupervised children safe. Check out this comprehensive list of Red Cross water safety tips.

It is imperative that older children be taught to swim so they can enjoy the water safely. The Red Cross offers swimming courses at several local facilities. We teach swimming classes to people of all ages and abilities, with an emphasis not just on swim instruction but on drowning prevention and water safety. The newly updated American Red Cross Learn-to Swim Program is designed to teach students aquatic and safety skills as they slowly progress from beginner to expert. The goal is for everyone to be safe in and around th e water. We also provide training for lifeguards, instructors and managers of local swimming facilities. Safer facilities have carefully trained employees and pool, lake and beach goers should request experienced lifeguards and staff.

In addition to these services, the American Red Cross has created a Swim App to help families get the most of swim lessons. The app helps young (and old) swimmers keep track of new skills and future goals by earning badges and includes videos reinforcing topics learned at each Learn-to-Swim level. There is a special section just for kids with games and more videos. It is also a resource for all the latest information on water safety. For instance, if you are beachgoer and concerned about riptides, there is plenty of information for you to access. The Red Cross wants to make sure individuals and families are prepared to enjoy one of the best ways to cool off during the summer months. You can download the app directly from the iTunes, Google Play or Amazon Marketplace app stores.