Red Cross, CPSC Call for All Children to Learn How To Swim

Water Safety
Drowning is the leading cause of unintentional death for children younger than 5 and minority children drown in pools at an alarming rate...

The American Red Cross and U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) today called for all children to learn to swim and for pool owners to fence in their pools.

A CPSC report issued today from the Pool Safely campaign reveals thatchildren younger than age 5 represent about 76 percent of pool and spa drowning deaths and 78 percent of pool and spa injuries treated in emergency rooms in the United States. Government data also shows that African-American and Hispanic children between the ages of 5 and 14 are at a high risk of drowning.

"Drowning is the leading cause of unintentional death for children younger than 5 and minority children drown in pools at an alarming rate," said Inez Tenenbaum, CPSC chairman, at a press conference at an aquatic center in Washington DC. “The lives of countless children can be saved this summer. Take simple safety steps today such as teach all children to swim, put a fence around all pools, and always watch children in and around the water.”

"Learning how to swim saves lives, and the American Red Cross encourages all families to enroll in Learn-to-Swim programs by contacting your local pool,” said Suzy DeFrancis, chief public affairs officer at the Red Cross, who also spoke at the press conference. “Families can learn about our programs and find water safety tips by going to"

A recent American Red Cross survey on water safety showed the critical importance of swim lessons and training in water safety procedures and skills. It found that though nearly two-thirds of families with small children plan on swimming in areas without lifeguards this summer, many people don’t know the right thing to do in water emergencies or how to keep their loved ones safe in the water.

The Red Cross survey reinforced how vital swimming skills are: Nearly half of people surveyed (49%) say they personally have had an experience where they were afraid they would drown, and more than four in 10 (41%) say they know someone who has nearly drowned.

CPSC’s Pool Safely campaign is focusing its attention on populations most at risk of drowning:

  • Children between the ages of 1 to 3 represented 67 percent of reported fatalities and 64 percent of injuries, most at residential settings
  • African American children between the ages of 5 and 19 drown in pools at rates five times that of white and Hispanic children that age, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Data from USA Swimming indicates that 70 percent of African American children and 62 percent of Hispanic children cannot swim, making them more likely to drown.
  • The Red Cross, a leader in teaching Americans how to enjoy the water safely for nearly 100 years, teaches more than 2 million Americans how to swim each year. DeFrancis said the Red Cross encourages all household members to enroll in age-appropriate Learn-to-Swim programs, adding that water safety must be everyone’s priority. She said parents should always supervise children around the water – even if lifeguards are present, staying within arm’s reach of young children.

    Other steps people can follow to help keep youngsters safe around the water include:

  • Constantly supervise children when they are near water. Many children who drown in home pools were out of sight for less than five minutes and in the care of one or both parents at the time.
  • If you have a pool, secure it with appropriate barriers.
  • Never leave a young child unattended near water, and do not trust a child’s life to another child; teach children to always ask permission to go near water.
  • Avoid distractions when supervising children around water.
  • If a child is missing, check the water first. Seconds count in preventing death or disability.
  • The Red Cross and National Swimming Pool Foundation® (NSPF) have developed an online safety course for pool and hot tub owners. Home Pool Essentials helps people understand the risks of pool ownership, how to maintain a safer and cleaner pool, what safety equipment is appropriate, how to prevent pool and hot tub entrapment hazards, and how to respond to an emergency.

    FIRST AID APP Another thing people can do is download the free Red Cross first aid app which puts expert advice for everyday emergency at someone’s fingertips. The free app is available for direct download from the Appleor Google Play for Android app stores.

    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 @RedCross.