May is Water Safety Month

Monthly safety tip from your Black Hawk College Safety Committee

It’s almost time for vacations or weekends at the water park, beach, pool, or boating and fishing.  Before you’re swimming in the water, make sure you are able to perform all five basic water skills. Currently, only 56% of self-described swimmers can perform the water skills competently. That is not good news. To be safe in the water, the Red Cross suggests you are competently able to perform the five basic water skills:

  1. Float or tread water for one minute without a flotation device.
  2. Step or jump into water over your head and return to the surface.
  3. Tread water or float in a full circle and then find a way out of the water.
  4. Exit a pool without using a ladder.
  5. Swim 25 yards (the length of a standard pool) without stopping.

Did you know drowning ranks fifth among the leading causes of unintentional injury or death in the United States? Each day, 10 people die from unintentional drowning. Two of the 10 people include children aged 14 or younger. Unfortunately, studies indicate that children 1-4 years old are more likely to die at home in their pool. A survey from the Center of Disease Control indicates four parents out of 10 report that their children ages 4-17 can perform all of the five basic swimming skills. The survey also indicated that 46% of people in the U.S. have had an experience where they were afraid they might drown, and 19% of people know of someone who drowned or nearly drowned.

Stay safe by practicing good safety habits. Francis Bacon once said “Knowledge is power.” This month, we say “Knowledge is lifesaving.” When near or in the water:

  • Use a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket. Air-filled water wings, foam noodles or inner-tubes are not life jackets.
  • Learn cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). The more quickly CPR is started, the better the outcome.
  • Swim with a buddy and select sites that have lifeguards when possible.
  • Eliminate alcohol. 80% of men drown due to alcohol consumption.
  • Be aware of the weather conditions. Strong winds and thunderstorms with lightning strikes are dangerous.
  • Watch for dangerous waves and rip currents. Look for water that is discolored and choppy, foamy or water filled with debris moving away from shore.
  • If you get caught in a current, don’t panic. Swim parallel to shore. Once free of the current, swim diagonally toward shore.

You are never too old to learn to swim!

If you don’t know how or you want to brush up on your skills, enroll in private or group swim lessons. Call and enroll in Black Hawk College’s Swim School which is a learn-to-swim program focusing on safety, fun and individual success. The college offers swim levels 1-7, beginner through pre-competitive, with low student-to-teacher ratios. Stay safe and enjoy the water!

Center for Disease Control and Prevention,,

Red Cross,,

Disclaimer: These tips have been provided as general information for increasing safety awareness and for informational purposes only. Black Hawk College does not accept any liability for the information or advice (or the use of such information or advice) that is provided. We make every effort to insure the integrity and validity of the data provided. Always, check with your care provider before making any changes.