American Red Cross Urges Action On Minority Drowning Disparity

As we head into the summer season, the desire to combat the sun’s rays with a splash in the pool or at the pond will be an irresistible draw, especially for children. Yet for many, seeking the cool comfort of water can have tragic consequences.

Unless children receive proper water safety and swimming lessons — pools, water parks and even bathtubs can be dangerous places. According to the CDC’s latest study on water-related injuries the drowning rate in the US averages to nine people per day. Moreover, a disproportionate number — more than 40% — of those deaths are predominantly in communities of color. A startling statistic considering studies show minority children actually have less exposure to water-related environments(1).

In a recent two-part series entitled “In the Minority”(2), 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.

The American Red Cross is asking that you join us in spreading the word on the need for swimming lessons and water safety. Making communities aware of a few simple rules can help ensure water is a safer place for everyone.

* 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.

The significance of swimming and water safety can be seen in our everyday lives; such as the case with Red Cross Water Safety Instructor Laura Chapman. As Chapman welcomed New Orleans evacuees to the Houston Astrodome after Hurricane Katrina, she was met by many of her fellow students who told of being able to use the water safety skills she taught them to survive the flood when others could not.

“Miriam, one of the girls, ran up to me and said ‘Miss Laura, Miss Laura, I used my life guarding skills!’ and I knew that meant that she swam out,” Chapman said. “Another one of the kids told me the same thing, and when I asked him where his momma was, he told me ‘she didn’t know how to swim.’ I took that to mean that she did not make it.”

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, log on http://www.redcross.org to find a Red Cross chapter near you.

Via PRNewswire

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