The American Red Cross has launched a new national campaign to reduce drowning and urged people across the country to make sure they and their families can swim safely. This year marks 100 years of Red Cross swimming safety education, and the Red Cross is making a new sustained multi-year push to teach more people to swim safely.
Drowning is one of the leading causes of unintentional injury and death in the United States. In Iowa, 43 people died from drowning in 2012 as reported by the Iowa Department of Public Health.
"As we all gear up for trips to the pool, rivers and lakes, we're asking that adults here in Iowa make water safety a priority this summer," said Leslie Schaffer, regional chapter executive for the Iowa region. "Families need to make sure that both adults and children have the knowledge and skills they need to be safe in and around the water."
The new Red Cross drowning prevention campaign comes at a time when a new national survey shows that people believe they are better swimmers than they actually are. The survey, conducted for the Red Cross, found that while 80 percent of Americans said they could swim, only 56 percent of the self-described swimmers can perform all five of the basic skills that could save their life in the water.
These critical water safety skills, also known as "water competency," are the ability to: 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.
Every day, an average of 10 people die in the U.S. from unintentional drowning - with 20 percent of them children 14 or younger according to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nationally, drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional injury death for children and sixth for people of all ages. In addition, for every child who dies from drowning, another five receive emergency department care for nonfatal submersion injuries.
Overall, the Red Cross survey finds that more than half of all Americans (54 percent) either can't swim or don't have all of the basic swimming skills. Other key survey findings are:
One in three (33 percent) African Americans reports that they can perform all five basic swimming skills, compared to 51 percent of whites. The survey showed that 84 percent of whites and 69 percent of African Americans say they can swim.
Just four in ten parents of children ages 4-17 report that their child can perform all five basic swimming skills, yet more than nine in 10 (92 percent) say that their child is likely to participate in water activities this summer.
Men are significantly more likely than women to report that they have all five basic swimming skills (57 percent for men compared to 36 percent of women.)
The survey found that nearly half of Americans (46 percent) report that they have had an experience in the water where they were afraid they might drown. In addition, one in five (19 percent) said they knew someone who had drowned, and 20 percent knew someone who nearly drowned.
Red Cross swimming lessons help people develop skills and water safety behaviors that help people become more comfortable and safe when they are in, on, and around the water. The Red Cross encourages all household members to enroll in age-appropriate water orientation and Learn-to-Swim programs. To find classes for your family, contact your local aquatic facility and ask for American Red Cross swimming and water safety programs.