Red Cross Launches Campaign to Cut Drowning in Half

WASHINGTON DC – May 20, 2014 - The American Red Cross today launched a new national campaign to reduce the drowning rate by 50 percent in 50 cities over the next three to five years.

To mark its 100 years of swimming safety education, the Red Cross is planning to teach 50,000 more people in the 50 selected cities across 19 states how to swim, and is urging people across the country to make sure that they and their families can swim.

“We're asking every family to make sure that both adults and children can swim and that parents make water safety a priority this summer,” said Connie Harvey, director of the Red Cross Centennial Initiative.

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, you must be able to exit without using the ladder.

Overall, the 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:

About 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.

Every day, an average of 10 people die in the U.S. from unintentional drowning – 20 percent of them are children aged 14 or younger, according to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 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.


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