DETROIT (WWJ) – As we approach Memorial Day, The Red Cross has begun a push to teach more Americans to swim.

Spokesperson Nicole Pribbernow says most Americans think they can swim, but over half can’t pass the standard Red Cross test, performing the five basic skills needed.

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Pribbernow said that 54 percent of all Americans and two-thirds of African-Americans fail to meet the Red Cross’ standards for swim-time safety.

“A lot of times, if you’re in trouble, there’s other factors that go into that and you panic,” Pribbernow explained.”You realize ‘oh my goodness, I don’t know how to get out of this situation’. Everybody who is in water or around water really should be able to have these five basic skills.”

The Red Cross defines these critical water safety skills as “water competency,”  —  jump into water that’s over your head, being able to tread water for one minute, swim 25 yards, swim in a full circle and be able to find an exit, and being able to haul yourself out of a pool without a ladder.

The survey conducted by the Red Cross showed that 84 percent of whites and 69 percent of African-Americans say they can swim.

“We’re asking every family to make sure that both adults and children can swim and that parents make water safety a priority this summer,” said Connie Harvey, director of the Red Cross Centennial Initiative

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Every day, an average of 10 people die in the U.S. from unintentional drowning – 20 percent of them are children aged 14 or younger, according to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“There’s a lot of playing that goes on in pools and people play in the shallow end. When push comes to shove and they’re in the deeper end, I think people think that they can do these things and they’ve never really done them.”

The survey found that nearly half of Americans (46 percent) report that they have had an experience in the water where they were afraid they might drown. In addition, one in five (19 percent) said they knew someone who had drowned, and 20 percent knew someone who nearly drowned.

While stronger swimming skills would reduce the risk of drowning, the Red Cross survey found that only 2 percent of adults plan to take swimming lessons this summer and about one in five children ages 4-17 (20 percent) are likely to take swimming lessons this summer.

“Parents across the country can enroll their child in Red Cross swim lessons and download the free Red Cross Swim App to track a child’s swim progress and water competency,” Harvey said. “Adults need to know how to be safe in the water even before they can protect their children and can take a Red Cross swim course for adults. But just as importantly, parents should learn about water safety and know how to respond to a water emergency.”

The Red Cross has released a set of free mobile apps to promote water safety for parents and caregivers of young people learning how to swim. The app, along with information about swim classes, can be found on the organization’s website HERE.

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