By Angela R. Wilson/American Red Cross of Alaska
According to the Department of Fish and Game, Alaska has over 12,00 rivers, 3 million lakes and numerous creeks and ponds. We also have pools and hot tubs, indoor water parks, and let’s not forget – bathtubs. Water can be entertaining as we swim, fish, and enjoy other recreational activities. Bathing can also be a wonderland for younger children.
Unfortunately, there is a dark side when it comes to water and our activities, even in the bathtub. If you are not properly equipped, or are too young to be in or around water, there is a higher probability of injury or death compared to a person who is properly equipped with training and skills in water safety. Official water safety training is the best method to ensure the safety of you and your family against possible injury or death this summer.
The American Red Cross offers water safety courses nationwide. Here in Alaska, there are a handful of online water safety courses available that teach participants how to recognize, prevent and respond to emergencies in, on or around the water. Drowning can occur quickly and silently, in nearly any place water is found. Summer is coming and Alaskans are ready to get outside and play (per the guidelines surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic). Why not be proactive and get fully prepared for summer fun by taking water safety courses from the Red Cross? There are courses available for Alaskans of all ages.
Why is it important to know the facts and ensure everyone in your family is prepared for water activities? According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, there are approximately 10 deaths per day in the United States due to unintentional drownings, and approximately one out of every five people who die from drowning in the U.S. are children 14 and younger.
According to a case-control study by Brenner et al, participation in formal swim lessons can reduce the likelihood of childhood drowning death by 88 percent. You can read more on the association between swimming lessons and drowning in childhood here.
General Water Safety
Red Cross water safety courses identify and discuss water safety tips that help people stay safe in, on or around the water. They also include safety tips for specific aquatic environments, including home pools, hot tubs, waterparks, lakes and rivers:
- Adults should actively supervise children.
- Inflatable children’s toys and water wings can be fun, but they are no substitute for a life jacket and adult supervision.
- Swim as a pair near a lifeguard’s chair – everyone, including experienced swimmers, should swim with a buddy in areas protected by lifeguards.
- Reach or throw, don’t go! Know what to do to help someone in trouble, without getting yourself in danger; know how and when to call 9-1-1; and know CPR. Visit redcross.org/Alaska for CPR course information.
Every family should make sure that both adults and children can swim and that parents make water safety a priority this summer. Adults need to know how to be safe in the water and know how to respond to a water emergency before they can protect their children.
Personal Water Safety for Adults
According to an American Red Cross Training Services survey, more than half of all Americans (54 percent) either can’t swim or don’t have all of the necessary basic swimming skills. The Red Cross recommends that everyone learn to perform critical water safety skills, also known as ‘water competency.’
Throughout the past century, the Red Cross has provided Americans of all ages with the knowledge and skills necessary to avoid and respond to aquatic emergencies and has provided people with basic information about boating and personal watercraft safety, as well as safety in natural water environments.
Some of the basic skills participants can expect to learn in a swimming and water competency course include:
- Jump into deep water from the side and recover to the surface while maintaining position by treading or floating for 1 minute.
- Rotate one full turn then turn as necessary to orient to the exit point; level off; then swim front crawl and/or elementary backstroke for 25 yards, then exit the water.
- Identify and discuss water safety tips for specific aquatic environments, including home pools, hot tubs, and waterparks.
- Explain strategies, such as avoiding aquatic emergencies in and around natural bodies of water and staying safe while boating or operating personal watercraft.
- Explain and demonstrate techniques that can be used for self-rescue in the event of an aquatic emergency.
- Understand techniques that can be used to assist others in the event of an aquatic emergency.
- Show an increase in your distance/length of time you are able to swim the front crawl, sidestroke, breaststroke, elementary backstroke and tread water.
- You may also learn how to prevent overexposure to the sun and recreational water illnesses (RWIs).
Water Safety Resources
To find classes for your family, contact your local aquatic facility and ask for American Red Cross swimming and water safety programs, or visit redcross.org/take-a-class.
For those with a pool or hot tub at home, the American Red Cross and the National Swimming Pool Foundation (NSPF) have developed an online safety course for pool and hot tub owners.
Alaskans can also download and view the free American Red Cross Swim App. It promotes water safety education and help parents and caregivers of young people learning how to swim. There are specific features designed for children to enjoy games, videos and quizzes. Downloading the app is free if you search for ‘American Red Cross’ in your app store or at redcross.org/apps.