Red Cross water safety rules that can save lives

By Gordon Williams 

Would you spend 20 minutes learning something new, if what you learned could help save a life? That is the premise — and the promise — of the American Red Cross class on Water Safety for Parents and Caregivers. 

The class is taught online at a time of your choosing. Completing it will take just 20 minutes of your time, says Connie Harvey, director of Red Cross Aquatics Centennial Initiatives. (They are Centennial Initiatives because they began in 2014 when the Red Cross marked 100 years of teaching water safety.) 

Register for a class at this link.

As to why you should take the course, the American Academy of Pediatrics reports that drowning is the leading cause of accidental death among children one to four, and a leading cause of injury among teens. Teaching parents and caregivers about water safety should help prevent some — if not most — of those deaths. 

The rules of water safety should be applied to any body of water — from a backyard pool to an ocean beach to a bathtub in the home. As to the cost of taking this course, there isn’t any. “The course is free,” explains Harvey.

The Red Cross has long offered in-person classes in water safety. Harvey says the organization was well along in creating an online water safety course when the pandemic hit, making online education the only way it could be taught. 

When you have completed the course, you will be on your way to what the Red Cross calls “water competency” — knowing how to keep kids safe in the water, how to raise kids who can keep themselves safe in the water, and how to respond when a child gets into trouble in the water. 

Necessary for anyone with kids or a pool

So glad I took the time to do this. I did not have to pay a thing to get some basic, very important information that could save someone. With a nine month old grandson and a pool, why would I not? I also took the paid CPR with AED and First Aid for Adults, Children and Infants as well. Better to have it and never use it than to need it and not have it! Easy to use and follow, and you can start and stop the online course as needed.

Online review from “Grandma G”

You help keep kids safe by implementing what the Red Cross calls the Circle of Drowning Prevention. Those are the steps you must take to reduce the risk of water death. That includes keeping a close watch on kids whenever and wherever they are in the water. It also includes such things as putting a fence or barrier around pools — high and secure enough to keep kids out. (Most child drownings occur during non-swim times, when children were not expected to be in water.)

Those prevention steps further include making sure every child knows essential water safety skills. Harvey lists five such skills, in this order: 

  1. Step into water over one’s head and return to the surface 
  2. Float or tread water for a minute 
  3. Rotate In the water until a place of safety is in sight. 
  4. Swim at least 25 yards to safety 
  5. Climb out of the water to dry land 

The idea of actively supervising kids when they are in the water is critical. “Drowning can happen to anyone at any time,” Harvey says. “It doesn’t require a lack of supervision but a lapse of supervision. The supervising adult was there but stepped away ‘for just a minute.’ “

“Never take your eye off kids when they are in the water,” says Harvey. “When you are in a group, pick one adult to act as ‘water watcher.’ The role can rotate among adults, but everyone should be clear who the water watcher is. The watcher would stay focused as long as any child is in the water. That means no chatting on the phone, no checking messages — just watching for signs someone is in trouble. 

What the watcher should watch for is not what you might expect. The signs that someone is in trouble in the water can be subtle.  “The idea that a drowning person will thrash and yell is wrong,” Harvey says. “People expect to see and hear when a person is in trouble, but that is seldom the case.” 

More often the person will be in a vertical position trying to get their mouth above the water to breathe, barely visible and unable to call for help. A child in trouble may have his or her head in the water, appearing to doggie paddle. In fact, the child is likely to have toppled forward and cannot lift their head back up out of the water. The danger sign is that the child may appear to be swimming, but is making no forward progress. 

Finally, the class will lay out the steps of how to respond when a child does get into trouble —referred to as the Chain of Drowning Survival. As you would expect, that chain involves getting the child out of the water and providing whatever life support or medical care is needed. If other people are around once the child is rescued, have someone call 9-1-1. If you are alone, apply CPR or other medical treatment for two minutes, and then call for assistance. 

To sign up for the course, go online to redcross.org/takeaclass. Setting up an account with the Red Cross takes only a few minutes, Harvey says. Then set aside 20 minutes at your computer to take the course. Finally, says Harvey, the course is available in both English and Spanish.

Knowledge that may well be used to safe a life.

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