A new survey conducted by the American Red Cross shows the importance of water safety skills, with half of those surveyed saying they have had a near-drowning experience in their lifetime.
The survey found that 48 percent reported a near-drowning experience, and nearly 1 in 3 said they had a near-drowning scare between the ages of 5 and 15. The survey also found that – while more than 90 percent of people plan to participate in water-related activities this summer – nearly half of parents with children between the ages of 3 and 17 plan to engage in activities where no lifeguard would be on duty.
The national survey of 1,002 adults was conducted in late March to assess the water activity plans of families and their water safety knowledge in advance of the summer months.
"More than ever, with so many families planning unsupervised water-related activities, the Red Cross is urging Oregon families to learn to swim and to know the water safety skills that can help save a life," said Stephanie Morgan, director of Health and Safety at the Oregon Trail Chapter of the American Red Cross.
According to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on water-related injuries, the drowning rate in the United States averages nine people per day with a quarter of fatal drownings involving children 14 and younger.
This is why the Red Cross recommends swimming in areas supervised by a lifeguard. If no lifeguard is on duty, designate an adult as a "water watcher," someone who maintains constant supervision of children around any water no matter how well they can swim or how shallow the water.
The Red Cross survey also found that nearly one in three parents (30 percent) believe that "floaties" are better than supervision. The Red Cross stresses that floaties cannot be used as a substitute for appropriate supervision.
Instead, stay this summer with these few simple tips:
• Learn to swim well: Contact the Oregon Trail Chapter for information on learning how to swim—nearly 2 million people learn to swim each year with Red Cross programs.
• Never leave children unattended near water — not even for a moment: Adults should practice "reach supervision," which means to always be within arm's length when a young child is near water. For older children or adults who are not strong swimmers, practice "active" or constant supervision and make sure they wear U.S. Coast Guard approved personal flotation devices (PFDs) whenever in or around the water.
• Know how to respond to an emergency: You should know how to tell if a swimmer is in distress and how and when to call for emergency help. You should also learn how to help someone in trouble in the water while keeping safe yourself. Enroll in Red Cross water safety, first aid and CPR courses to learn what to do.
• Keep lifesaving gear handy: Always have a ring buoy, life jacket, rope, pole or other object that can be used to help a person in trouble. Remember to have a first aid kit, cordless phone and emergency contact information by the pool.
• Know when it's too dangerous: If you or someone you are swimming with appears to be too cold, too far from safety, has been exposed to too much sun, or has had too much strenuous activity, it is time to head for shore or signal for help.
• Eliminate temptation: Backyard pools should have self-closing, self-latching gates that remain locked when the pool is not in use. Kiddie pools should be emptied and toys removed immediately after use. Empty water pails and buckets so small children cannot fall in and drown.
• Know what you're getting into: Check local tides, currents and other conditions which could be dangerous before entering open bodies of water.
For more information on Learn to Swim, water safety, first aid and CPR classes, contact the Oregon Trail Chapter of the American Red Cross at 503-284-1234 or visit www.oregonredcross.org.