Red Cross launches campaign to cut high drowning rate

Source: The American Red Cross
Source: The American Red Cross

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – The American Red Cross is launching a new national campaign to reduce the drowning rate by 50 percent over the next three to five years in Myrtle Beach and other areas across the country.

The Red Cross campaign will start in 10 cities this year including Myrtle Beach, and then expand in the future.

Myrtle Beach and the other communities selected for the drowning prevention campaign have high numbers of drowning deaths. Myrtle Beach's drowning rate is more than double the national average.

Doctors with Grand Strand Medical Center say they see between six and ten drowning related deaths each year and estimate for every death there are probably more than 100 near drownings.

"In our efforts to reduce the drowning rate in Myrtle Beach, Red Cross is partnering with the City of Myrtle Beach's Recreation Department to teach swim safety," says Nanci Conley, executive director of Coastal SC Chapter, Palmetto SC Region. "We are committed to working with the City to make a significant impact in swimming safety in our community."

The program will start in the city, with a goal of around 500 scholarships for swimming lessons. It will also aim to add more water safety instructors, lifeguards and work with families to develop water safety plans, according to the local chapter of the American Red Cross.

Come up with your own safety plan, now, starting with always keeping your eyes on your kids.

"Never take your eyes off your kids, a drowning can happen in one second and it can happen in a couple of inches of water, so always having your eyes on your kids. Lifeguards are there, they respond to emergencies but accidents still happen," Ryan Caputo, Aquatics Leader with the City of Myrtle Beach, said.

Also, whether you're a kid or an adult, always have a swimming buddy when you hit the water. While drowning may be the second leading cause of death among kids, Grand Strand doctors say adults are also at risk, especially when alcohol is involved.

The new Red Cross drowning prevention campaign comes at a time when a new national survey shows that people believe they are better swimmers than they actually are. The survey, conducted for the Red Cross, found that while 80 percent of Americans said they could swim, only 56 percent of the self-described swimmers can perform all five of the basic skills that could save their life in the water.

According to the CDC, swimming lessons can cut the risk of drowning, in kids, but 88%.

2014 marks 100 years of Red Cross swimming safety education. For more information, visit

For details on swimming lessons within the American Red Cross Partnership:

Other Grand Strand Swimming programs:

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