11 safety tips to practice at water parks

WaterSafetyLifeguards2_cropOne of the most popular ways to beat the summer heat is to visit the local water park and fly down the water slide or tube along the lazy river. To help make sure your trip to the park is fun, the American Red Cross has some safety steps you should follow.

1. Learn to swim. It’s the best way to stay safe in, on and around the water. If you cannot perform the five steps of water competency in order, find a Red Cross swim class.

2. Make sure lifeguards are on duty before you go in the water and follow all their instructions.

3. Wear protective clothing, including a hat and some kind of cover-up for when you’ve had enough sun.

4. Use sunscreen before leaving home and reapply during the day.

5. Be prepared if soap and water aren’t available with a product like the new Red Cross alcohol-free hand sanitizer

6. Drink plenty of fluids – avoid drinks with sweeteners or caffeine.

7. Parents – keep an eye on the kids. If they can’t swim or are less than four feet tall, have them wear a U.S. Coast Guard approved life jacket.

8. Read the attraction signs and listen to all instructions given to you by the lifeguards. Obey the rules. Follow age and height requirements.

9. Signal a lifeguard if you see someone is in trouble. Yell if you need to grab attention, but don’t go in after the person yourself.

10. Set up a meeting place in case someone gets separated from your group. Use the buddy system to make sure no child is alone.

11. Watch the weather and get out of the water at the first sign of lightning or the rumble of thunder. Stay indoors and away from water for 30 minutes after the last lightning flashes or thunder roars.

DOWNLOAD FREE APPS TO PROTECT YOU. Our Emergency App allows you to choose weather alerts, such as thunderstorms, for areas where you are near the water. It will also give you real-time information on how to keep safe for that particular alert. Our Swim App allows you to access water safety and drowning prevention information and track your child’s progress in Red Cross swim lessons. Children will enjoy learning water safety tips with child-friendly videos and quizzes. Download both apps from your app store by searching for American Red Cross or by going to redcross.org/apps.

Do you really know how to swim?

water-safety-infographic-2015_lowresMany people believe they know how to swim. But in reality, the really don’t, especially children and teens. Last year the American Red Cross released survey results revealing something quite shocking: more than 60 percent of youth are unable to perform all five basic water competency skills.  To reduce this life-threatening statistic, the Red Cross has launched a national campaign to reduce drownings in half by 50 percent during a three to five year period. In Minnesota, that would mean cutting the number of non-boating accident drownings from an average of 40 per year to 20.

Additional key survey findings include:

  • Nearly a fifth (18 percent) of adults who are not able to perform all five water safety skills expect to supervise a child near water this summer.
  • Fear is listed as the top reason for not learning how to swim both as a child and as an adult.
  • Nearly half of Americans (46 percent) report that they have had an experience where they were afraid they might drown.
  • Near-drowning experiences are more common among young adults (ages 18-24). And younger Americans are also more likely than those in any other age group to report that they know someone who nearly drowned (36 percent).

To learn more and to test your swim skills before you hit the water, click here.
To find classes for your family, contact your local swim facility or click here.

Red Cross awards Wisconsin teen the Certificate of Merit

Story and photos by Andrea Bredow/American Red Cross Volunteer

COM Photo
Becca Thomas (c) used her lifesaving skills when she noticed River Falls Swim Club teammate Marissa Metzler chest up and unconscious in a pool.

Three Wisconsin teens put their lifesaving skills to use one early morning at swim practice back in 2012. Becca Thomas used her Red Cross lifeguarding skills when she noticed River Falls Swim Club teammate Marissa Metzler chest up and unconscious in the pool.  Becca rushed into action and immediately got Marissa out of the pool.

From there it was a team effort. Jon Heiniger began chest compressions while his mother, Sonja, did the mouth-to-mouth portion of the rescue. Meanwhile, 15-year-old Ben Heiniger ran for the AED. All of that took place within a minute.

Fast thinking and Red Cross lifeguard training saved Marissa’s life. Their heroic actions earned Becca Thomas the national Red Cross Certificate of Merit, and Jon, Sonja and Ben awarded the Certificate of Extraordinary Personal Action.

The Red Cross awards about 100 Certificates of Merit each year across the country.
The American Red Cross awards about 100 Certificates of Merit each year across the country.

The Red Cross awards about 100 Certificates of Merit each year across the country. The Certificate of Merit is the highest award given by the American Red Cross to an individual or team of individuals who saves or sustains a life by using skills and knowledge learned in an American Red Cross Health and Safety Services course. The certificate is signed by the President of the United States, who is the honorary chairman of the American Red Cross. The award package also includes a citation, medallion and lapel pin. The Certificate of Extraordinary Personal Action is a local award that can be given to individuals who are not Red Cross trained but use lifesaving skills to help save someone’s life.

For more about the story, watch the Fox 9 news clip. To learn lifesaving skills, take a Red Cross class.

Celebrating 100 Years of Red Cross Aquatics

Commodore Wilbert E. Longfellow, founder of the Red Cross Water Safety Program and members of the YWCA Life Saving Corps. (Source: Red Cross photo archive.)
Commodore Wilbert E. Longfellow, founder of the Red Cross Water Safety Program and members of the YWCA Life Saving Corps.

For the past 100 years, the American Red Cross has helped millions of kids, teens and adults learn how to swim and become lifeguards and instructors. In our Northern Minnesota Region last year, more than 47,500 people took Red Cross Learn-to-Swim, lifeguarding or water safety instructor classes.

This month, during the Red Cross Aquatics Centennial, celebrating 100 years of Red Cross water safety education, we’d like to encourage everyone:

  • to make sure that they and their families can swim
  • to know basic water safety
  • to know how to respond to an emergency

We feel a particular urgency for promoting the steps above because a new national survey conducted for the Red Cross found that 80 percent of Americans said they can swim, only 56 percent of those self-described as swimmers can perform all five basic, or “water competency,” skills for swimming ability:

  • step or jump into the water over your head
  • return to the surface and float or treat water for one minute
  • turn around in a full circle and find an exit
  • swim 25 yards to the exit
  • exit from the water; if from a pool, exit without using a ladder
New survey shows only 56 percent of self-described swimmers know water competency skills.
New survey shows only 56 percent of self-described swimmers know water competency skills.

Overall, the survey found that 54 percent of all Americans can’t swim or don’t have basic swimming ability. Moreover, only 33 percent of African-Americans reported having swimming, or some basic water skills. While 51 percent of white Americans reported the same.

The numbers do not lie. There is a great need for people to take steps for learning how to swim. And so, during our aquatics centennial, the Red Cross kicks off a campaign that seeks to cut the drowning rates in half in 50 cities in 19 states. This campaign will take place in 10 cities this year and expand to all 50 cities in the years ahead.

Here’s some good news: Minnesota is not among the 19 states. Why? It has a low drowning rate compared to other states. And yet, 40 people drowned in non-boating water emergencies in 2012 (most recent reported year from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources). You can help bring down that number.

Adults and children should know how to be safe in the water. In the land of more than 11,800 lakes as well as more than 6,500 rivers and streams…and who knows how many swimming pools…parents and swimmers should learn about water safety and know how to respond to an emergency. To find an aquatics center offering Red Cross swim classes near you, click here. To find other health and safety, such as CPR and First Aid, click here.

Have a great summer!

*The national public opinion survey was conducted for the Red Cross April 17-20, 2014 using ORC International’s Online CARAVAN omnibus survey.

Water, water, everywhere

It almost goes without saying that living in Minnesota means that we’re never far from a body of water. But we’ll say it anyway: there’s water, water, everywhere in our land of lakes, rivers, streams, water parks and swimming pools.

lifeguard_2010_IMG_2351_webLast year, sadly, we had in Minnesota at least 39 drowning-related deaths (not including boating accidents). Do you know that drowning ranks as the second leading cause of unintentional injury or death in children 1-14 years of age?

Because of those tragedies, and the fact that May is National Water Safety Month, we’d like to remind our Minnesota community that everyone should know how to swim and how to respond to water emergencies.

So, do you know how to swim? And does everyone you know and care about know how to swim? If the answer to either of these questions is no, then it’s time for you or that someone you know to enroll in age-appropriate swim courses. There’s no reason to feel ashamed if you can’t swim, but taking action as soon as possible and learning how to swim can go a long way toward preventing accidents in and around water.

????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????How about knowing CPR and first aid? It may become crucial that you carry out actions required to resuscitate an unconscious swimmer, especially in a scenario where there’s no lifeguard on duty. If you don’t know CPR, then learn now.

Also, following these rules can help prevent water emergencies and make your vacation at the beach or by the pool that much more enjoyable:

  • Never leave a child unsupervised around the water. Even where lifeguards are on duty, keep a watchful eye on younger swimmers.
  • Set/follow water safety rules for family based on swimming abilities.
  • Be conscious of any and all posted signs.
  • When possible, swim in areas lifeguard-supervised areas.
  • Have young children or inexperienced swimmers wear U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets around water, but do not rely on life jackets alone.
  • Be aware of factors like deep and shallow areas, and currents.
  • Pay attention to local weather conditions and forecasts.
  • Wear life-jackets when boating.

Story by Hayes Kaufman/American Red Cross. Additional sources include the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the Minnesota Department of Health. For more Red Cross water safety tips, please click here.