In a recent two-part series entitled In the Minority, Aquatics International magazine examined the disparity in minority drowning rates and found, "…black children between the ages of 5 and 19, are 2.6 times more likely to drown than whites."
Roughly 5,000 drowning and near drowning accidents are reported in the US each year. Compounding this tragic figure is the fact that most of these accidents could have been prevented with proper training. That is why the American Red Cross is encouraging everyone, especially those with children, to be mindful of water safety.
What can be done? The American Red Cross has several suggestions.
- Learn to swim and swim well. One of the best things anyone can do to stay safe in and around the water is learn to swim. No one should ever swim alone.
- Never leave a child unattended near water. Adults should practice "reach supervision," meaning always be within arm's length of a child in water.
- Be equipped before entering the water. Always keep basic lifesaving equipment by the residential pool and know how to use it. A first aid kit, cordless phone, phone list with emergency contact information, a reaching pole and a ring buoy with a nylon line attached are recommended.
- Know when you've had too much. If you, or someone you are swimming with, appears to be too cold, too far from safety, had too much sun or too much strenuous activity, it is time to head for shore or signal for help.
- Eliminate temptation. Surround a backyard pool with a fence at least 4 feet high on all sides. The safest fence will have vertical bars with spacing small enough that children cannot slip through them with self-latching that remains locked when the pool is not being used.
- Know what you're getting into. Never swim in an area that does not have a lifeguard. Check with local officials to see what types of currents are most common in the area you plan to swim. Learn how to spot a dangerous current and what to do if you're caught in one.
- Take your plan to the park. Don't let your guard down at water parks; follow all posted instructions and always slide feet-first unless directed otherwise by the ride operator. On speed slides, be sure legs are crossed to prevent injuries.
- Learn first aid and CPR. It is important that every household have at least one person who can perform this lifesaving skill. Families must insist that babysitters, grandparents and anyone else who cares for their children learn first aid and CPR.
In every community across the country the Red Cross has a swimming program for all ages and skill levels. It is never too early or too late to learn this lifesaving skill. Water can be safe and enjoyed by all if we remember a few simple safety rules. To learn more about water safety and how to enroll in a Red Cross Learn to Swim class, contact your local office of the American Red Cross.