October 27, 2022

Pool Safely is highlighting our longtime collaborator at American Red Cross.

  1. As a refresher for our readers, what is the mission of your organization and how does it relate to water safety? How long have you been a Pool Safely campaign collaborator?

The mission of the American Red Cross is to prevent and alleviate human suffering in the face of emergencies by mobilizing the power of volunteers and the generosity of donors. In 1914, the Red Cross added the work of drowning prevention as a result of the rising death tolls due to drowning. Led by Commodore Wilbert E Longfellow, the Red Cross developed the first nationwide water safety program that included the first trained lifeguards, a volunteer corps of swimming instructors and a public education campaign to raise water safety awareness.

The Red Cross doesn’t own swimming pools nor operate beaches or camps. Throughout history, we have partnered with other agencies, such as YMCA, Boy Scout and Girl Scouts, parks and recreation departments, camps, and schools. This spirit of partnership continues today with the thousands of aquatics facilities that teach Red Cross Aquatics programs.

The Red Cross is proud to be one of the original Pool Safely campaign partners since 2010.

  1. What is your favorite aspect of collaborating with Pool Safely?

It’s the people and our joint mission. Early on, we collaborated on many successful satellite media tours, where the two organizations were able to reach great numbers of viewers and listeners, raising awareness of the issue of drowning and sharing the message that “Simple Steps Save Lives.” Today, social media allows us all to amplify one another’s content. Whether it be advice, sharing a story of a family impacted by drowning, celebrating the exemplary actions of lifeguards or trained bystanders, or simply the joy of the water, social media is helping us reach even more people.

  1. How is the Red Cross addressing racial disparities in swimming ability?

The Red Cross works daily to address racial disparities in swimming skills and to help provide opportunities to everyone to enjoy the water safely. Our most notable work is through our Aquatics Centennial Campaign which was launched in 2014 to mark the 100-year milestone of when the Red Cross added drowning prevention to our mission. We focus on communities with high drowning rates and collaborate with Red Cross training providers to make swim lessons, water safety education, Lifeguarding and Water Safety InstructorTM training, available, accessible and affordable. Our campaign is helping create an ecosystem of water safety for these families and communities.

This spring, Diversity in Aquatics (DIA) joined the Centennial Campaign. Our work together focuses on supporting staff, alumni and others associated with Historically Black College and Universities who are affiliated with DIA to help develop instructors and instructor trainers to support new – or grow existing – aquatics programs and to make those programs self-sustaining. We’ll be expanding this work to include Hispanic-Serving Institutions and Tribal Colleges and Universities in the near term.

We also work with Jack and Jill of America to help raise awareness of the issue of drowning and the disparities in drowning rates and swimming and water safety skills. We work together to promote swim lessons as well as lifeguarding and swim instructor training and certification for their member families and the communities they serve.

There is still much to do to address racial disparities in swimming skills, and the Red Cross is committed to helping make the life skill of swimming available to everyone!

  1. What risk factors increase a child’s likelihood of drowning?

People can drown at any age. Wherever there is water, there is a risk of drowning. Some of the higher risk factors for young children include:

  • Having unsupervised access to water, such as a residential pool or spa.
  • Lack of close supervision.
  • Lack of swimming skills.
  • Weak or non-swimmers not wearing a life jacket.

To learn more about risk factors and disparities in drowning, visit cdc.gov/drowning.

  1. The Red Cross has several online resources designed to teach kids of all ages about water safety. Can you tell us about them and why parents/caregivers should share them with their kids?

Parents may not always be confident in their own knowledge about water safety. The Red Cross has some great, free digital resources to help them learn this vital information:

Parents can also search our website for “water safety resources for kids” and see videos of Longfellow the Whale.

We at the Red Cross strongly believe in the power of collaboration. We are proud to be part of the Pool Safely network. We know that it will take us all working together every day to help reduce drowning.