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Red Cross Finds 61% of Children Can't Swim

Red Cross - Sierra-Delta - Water Safety
“We're asking every family to make sure that both adults and children here in the Gold Country Region, from Modesto all the way to Redding can swim and that parents make water safety a priority this summer”

Even before the official start of summer, temperatures in the Gold Country region have been soaring, and the perfect way to cool down is by jumping in pool, lakes, and rivers or nearby beaches. But, can you swim well enough to save your life?

As part of a national campaign to reduce the drowning rate by 50 percent over the next three to five years, the Red Cross released national survey data that shows that most children and teens cannot perform basic swimming safety skills.

The survey, conducted for the Red Cross, found that nearly all parents (94 percent) expect that their children will engage in some sort of water activity this summer. However, nearly two-thirds (61 percent) of these parents report that their child cannot demonstrate all five basic skills that could save their lives in the water. Of these, 65 percent are parents of children (ages 4-12) and 51 percent are parents of teens (ages 13-17).

These critical water safety skills, also known as “water competency,” are the ability to, in this order: 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.

“We're asking every family to make sure that both adults and children here in the Gold Country Region, from Modesto all the way to Redding can swim and that parents make water safety a priority this summer,” said Lilly Wyatt, Director of Communications for the American Red Cross Gold Country Region.

Every day, an average of 10 people die in the U.S. from unintentional drowning – and 1 in 5 of them are children 14 or younger, according to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In California, the drowning rate is 62 per year according to the latest findings from 2013. Drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional injury death for children and fifth for people of all ages. In addition, for every child who dies from drowning, another five receive emergency department care for nonfatal submersion injuries.

Other key survey findings are:

  • Nearly a fifth (18 percent) of adults who are not able to perform all five water safety skills expect to supervise a child near water this summer.
  • Fear is listed as the top reason for not learning how to swim both as a child and as an adult.
  • Nearly half of Americans (46 percent) report that they have had an experience where they were afraid they might drown.
  • Near-drowning experiences are more common among young adults (ages 18-24). And younger Americans are also more likely than those in any other age group to report that they know someone who nearly drowned (36 percent).
  • Plan ahead with these five steps to stay safe in and around the water:

    1. Adults: actively supervise children. And kids, be cool. Follow the rules.

    2. Don’t fool with a pool: fence it in.

    3. Learn to swim well enough that you can perform all five water competency skills. If you can’t look for Red Cross Learn-to-Swim classes.

    4. Don’t just pack it, wear your life jacket – always on a boat and if in a situation beyond your skill level.

    5. Swim as a pair near a lifeguard’s chair.

    Click Here for Water Safety Survey Infographic

    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 ±3.1percent; the margin of error for the sample of 201 parents is ±6.9 percent.

    About the American Red Cross:

    The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit or visit us on Twitter at @RCSierraDelta