JUNE 5, 2013

American Red Cross survey finds people unclear about how to stay safe in the water

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PHOENIX – Even though nearly two-thirds of families with children plan on swimming this summer in areas without lifeguards, an American Red Cross survey found many people don’t know what to do during emergencies and don’t know how to keep their loved ones safe in the water. Findings from a 1,011-person telephone survey of U.S. adults 18 and older conducted in April show people mistakenly believe having a swimming buddy or a flotation device will keep them safe. While the Red Cross recommends people always swim with a buddy in designated areas supervised by lifeguards, buddies alone aren’t enough to ensure the safety of swimmers. “People tend to spend more time in and around the water during the summer, so now is a great time to review water safety precautions,” said Chelly McDougal, the Service Delivery Manager for the American Red Cross Grand Canyon Chapter’s Preparedness, Health and Safety Services division. Two-thirds of those surveyed by the Red Cross mistakenly believe putting inflatable arm bands, or “water wings,” on children is enough to keep them safe when an adult isn’t nearby. Arm bands aren’t lifesaving devices, and children, along with weak and inexperienced swimmers, should wear life jackets approved by the U.S. Coast Guard, while remaining under constant adult supervision. The Red Cross poll also found 63 percent of families with children plan to swim this summer in areas that aren’t attended by lifeguards. However, nearly half of those polled by the Red Cross had never taken swimming lessons. Nearly half of Americans say they have had an experience in which they were afraid they would drown, according to the Red Cross poll. Meanwhile, 41 percent of people surveyed by the Red Cross say they know someone who was in danger of drowning – an increase of 16 percent from a similar Red Cross poll in 2009. Another finding of concern in this Red Cross survey is most of those polled were unsure of the correct steps to take when someone is in distress in the water. Only 7 percent of respondents in the Red Cross poll identified the right order of actions to help a swimmer in danger of drowning – shout for help; throw the person a rescue or flotation device; tell them to grab it; then dial 911 if necessary. “People think that if a person isn’t calling out for help that they must not need help. However, they are likely using all of their energy to just try to stay above the water,” McDougal said. “People think that they should enter the water to save someone, but that often endangers the life of the rescuer.” For more information on the American Red Cross Grand Canyon Chapter, please visit www.redcross.org/gcc, like us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/redcrossgcc or follow us on Twitter under the handle @RedCrossGCC.