The American Red Cross is urging everyone in a national campaign to get some swimming lessons this summer, saying drowning is one of the leading causes of unintentional death and injury in the U.S. Kara Kelly with the Great Iowa Chapter of the Red Cross says a study the organization conducted led them to focus on water skills.
“Really some shocking information came out on really how much knowledge folks have on water safety,” Kelly explains. “About 50-percent of Americans either can’t swim or don’t have all of the basic swimming skills.”
Kelly says you are putting yourself in danger if you can’t do some of the basics. “Knowing how to float, being comfortable jumping into the water with the water being over your head, treading water for a minute, and then being able to find or swim to an exit,” Kelly says. If you are in a pool, you should also know how to get out of the water without the use of a ladder.
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. Kelly says many parents take their kids to swimming lessons, but don’t know the basics themselves. “Certainly it’s a little bit easier to start with a little one and get them trained and comfortable with the water early. But of course, if you are an adult — especially if you are around children if you are a parent, grandparent or caregiver — having those skills around the water so that you can make sure that your kids are safe and the kids around you are safe — that is important as well,” Kelly says.
Kelly encourages everyone — regardless of their age — to get some swimming lessons. She says you should try to find a Red Cross swimming class and you can do that by contacting your local pool or rec center. Kelly recommends you swim where trained life guards are on duty. “In Iowa we do have a lot of lakes and creeks and rivers and ponds where a lifeguard is not present, so be sure that somebody with you has those swimming skills,” Kelly says. “But, we do recommend that you are at an area where there is a lifeguard present.”
The Iowa Department of Public Health reports 43 people died in Iowa from drowning in 2012.