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Red Cross Encourages Families to Make Water Safety a Priority this Summer

Diane Concannon

Thursday, May 22, 2014 • 11:06pm

PRINCETON, NJ - This year marks 100 years of American Red Cross swimming safety education, and the Red Cross is urging families to make water safety a priority this summer. A New National Survey has found that more than half of all Americans can’t swim or perform basic swim safety skills.

“As we all gear up for trips to the pool, beach, rivers and lakes, we're asking that adults here in New Jersey make water safety a priority this summer,” said Mathieu Nelessen, regional CEO, American Red Cross North Jersey 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.”

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.

The survey found while just four in ten parents of children ages 4-17 report that their child can perform all five basic swimming skills, more than nine in 10 (92 percent) say that their child is likely to participate in water activities this summer.

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.

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.

“Parents and caregivers should take advantage of the summer months to enroll children in Red Cross swim lessons and download the free Red Cross Swim App to track their progress,” Nelessen said. “Parents and caregivers, in addition to learning how to swim, should also know critical water safety rules and know how to respond to a water emergency, so they can protect children and others.”

Red Cross swimming lessons help people develop skills and water safety behaviors that help people be 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.

Features of the Red Cross Swim App include:

  • Progress tracker for goals achieved in swimming lessons,
  • Stroke videos and performance charts to help with proper techniques,
  • “Help your Child Progress” activities that reinforce what is covered in lessons, and
  • Water safety and drowning prevention information for parents on a variety of aquatic environments.

People can download the app for free in the Apple App Store, Google Play Store for Android or Amazon Kindle Store by searching for American Red Cross or by going to redcross.org/mobileapps. The Swim App is not a substitute for learning how to swim. Parents can contact their local pool, aquatic facility or park and recreation department and ask for Red Cross swim lessons. Additional water safety tips are available at redcross.org/watersafety.

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 ±3.1 percent; 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 redcross.org.

About the American Red Cross North Jersey Region
The American Red Cross North Jersey Region provides programs and services throughout the counties of Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Morris, Passaic, Somerset, Sussex, Union and Warren, with a combined population of 5.7 million. The region trains and mobilizes more than 3,000 volunteers who support the delivery of services in the community. Last year, the Red Cross North Jersey Region responded to 485 local home fires, helping 1,269 displaced families; collected more than 26,500 units of blood through blood drives and Red Cross Blood Donation Centers; provided 1,985 military family case services with emergency messages, helping families find assistance and/or get counseling and referrals; and trained 79,341 individuals with life-saving skills in preparedness, CPR, AED use, first aid and aquatics. Follow the North Jersey Region on Twitter @RedCrossNorthNJ.

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