Be “Water Smart” This Summer

Playing in the surf, diving into the pool, tubing down the river: when the mercury rises, we hit the water with gusto. Millions of us will take the plunge this summer, and while it’s fun, a lack of safety and skills can be dangerous, even deadly.

According to the American Red Cross, research shows that participation in formal water safety and swim lessons can reduce the risk of drowning by 88 percent for 1 to 4-year-olds. Preventing unsupervised access to water, constant, active adult supervision and knowing how to swim are critical layers of protection to help prevent drowning.

Water safety has been an enduring part of the Red Cross mission, and we encourage everyone to be “water smart” to help prevent drowning. The term water smart means being safer in, on and around water and knowing what to do in a water emergency. Each year, more than 2.5 million people learn to swim through Red Cross lifesaving aquatics programs. These programs incorporate the latest science-based curriculum and industry best practices, helping to keep individuals and families safer while enjoying water activities. Through this work, over the last century, the Red Cross has helped to reduce accidental drownings by nearly 90% nationwide.

The Red Cross recently revamped its Longfellow’s WHALE Tales Water Safety for Children program. This free program is designed to help children from all backgrounds in kindergarten through 5th grade learn vital water safety behaviors without having to be in or near the water. The downloadable resources can be accessed at Additional resources are available for parents or caregivers teaching their own children.

Remember these four water safety tips this summer and anytime you’re near the water:

  • Nobody should ever swim alone – adults and teens as well as children. Never leave a young child unattended near water, and do not trust a child’s life to another child.
  • It’s best to always designate a “water watcher” who will keep a close eye and constant attention on children and weaker swimmers in, on and around water until the next water watcher takes over.
  • Have young children or inexperienced swimmers wear properly fitted U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets around water, but do not rely on life jackets alone.
  • Reach or throw, don’t go! In the event of an emergency, reach or throw an object to the person in trouble and tell them to grab on. Don’t go in! You could be in danger of drowning yourself.

Learn how to perform these 5 skills in every type of water environment that you may encounter (such as in home pools, oceans, lakes, rivers and streams):

  • Enter water that’s over your head, then return to the surface
  • Float or tread water for at least 1 minute
  • Turn over and turn around in the water
  • Swim at least 25 yards
  • Exit the water

If a child is missing, check the water first: seconds count in preventing death or disability! Recognize the signs of someone in trouble and shout for help. A swimmer needs immediate help if they:

  • Are not making forward progress in the water
  • Are vertical in the water but unable to move or tread water.
  • Are motionless and face down in the water.

Know what to do in an emergency:

  • Alert the lifeguard, if one is present
  • Rescue and remove the person from the water (without putting yourself in danger)
  • Ask someone to call emergency medical services (EMS). If alone, give 2 minutes of care, then call EMS
  • Begin rescue breathing and CPR
  • Use an AED if available and transfer care to advanced life support

Being “water smart” isn’t just good for some – it can be lifesaving for everyone. Water safety is a community effort, and we all play an important role in keeping those in and near the water safe, which includes spreading the word on free and accessible water safety resources.

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Photo by Fernando Torres on Uns