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Is there a Shark in Your Pool?

Angela Beale

By: Angela Beale, Ph.D.
American Red Cross Scientific Advisory Council 

As a mother of four young children and an aquatics education specialist, I know first-hand that there’s nothing kids love more than a trip to the pool.

But did you know that the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and World Health Organization (WHO) recently reported that children ages 1-4 and younger represent about 76 percent of all pool and spa drowning deaths? Additionally, did you know that of injuries treated in the United States emergency rooms about 78 percent were pool and spa related injuries?

Put another way, when kids don’t know swim-safety basics, also known as water competency, it’s like having a shark in the pool.

So what do kids need to know? The American Red Cross calls swimmers “water competent” if they can:

1. Step or jump into the water over their heads and return to the surface.
2. Swim 25 yards (equal to the length of a standard swimming pool) without stopping.
3. Float or tread water for 1 minute without using a flotation device.
4. Turn around in a full circle in the water and then find a way out of the water.
5. Exit a pool, not using a ladder.

If your kids can’t complete every one of these key skills, now is the time to get into the swim of things and register them for an American Red Cross swim class.

Just remember that every child is special and even children who can perform all five of these critical water safety skills need supervision. If you host kids in a backyard pool or at a recreational pool, be sure to follow these guidelines:

* Eyes on the Prize: Constantly supervise children near water. Many children who drown in home pools were out of sight for less than five minutes and in the care of parents at the time.
* Fence It: If you have a pool, secure it with appropriate barriers.
* It’s On You: Never trust a child’s life to another child; teach children to always ask permission to go near water.
* Stay Focused: Avoid distractions when supervising children around water.
* First and Fast: If a child is missing, check the water first. Seconds count in preventing death or disability. Get Involved and Get Educated: Take the Online Home Pool Essentials class from the Red Cross and National Swimming Pool Foundation® (NSPF).

About the Author: Angela Beale, Ph.D. is a member of the American Red Cross Scientific Advisory Council and Aquatics Subcouncil with a specialty in physical education and youth development. The Council is a panel of nationally recognized experts drawn from a wide variety of scientific, medical, and academic disciplines. The Council guides the Red Cross on emergency treatments and practices that align with the latest evidence-based scientific and medical knowledge.

National Running Day!

In honor of National Running Day, I wanted to take the opportunity to blend my Red Cross knowledge and love of running into an exciting blog post to honor one of my favorite unofficial holidays.

I try to run every year on National Running Day – it’s a day to reflect on a sport that has consumed so much of my life, but given me so much in return. While I’ve been running consistently since 2007, I’ve learned a few safety tips. Now, while the Red Cross does not offer official “running safety and preparedness” courses, I’d like to think I can offer some insight from my experiences.

Tip #1 – Wear BRIGHT Colors
I’ve never understood runners who wear all black. Yes, black is very slimming, but if you’re running at night, or at the dusk/dawn hours, black is a very dangerous color. Here are a few of my favorite running outfits – notice how BRIGHT they are??


bright jacket

bright shorts

Tip #2 – Run with a Buddy

There’s nothing worse than getting lost on a run, or just being out by yourself. Having a friend along can really help if anything happens (I once had hypothermia and had to be walked to a med tent). Look, my friends are even wearing bright colors!


Tip #3 – If Running Solo – Tell a Friend
When training for a marathon, it’s hard to find someone to go log 20 miles with me. So I’ll pre-map my route, leave it with my husband, and tell his to reverse drive the route if I’m not back by a certain time. There’s certainly some room for improvement here, but I never run with a phone.

Screen Shot 2014-06-04 at 1.19.37 PM

Tip #4 – Have a Designated Meeting Spot After Races
The end of a race can be hectic – there’s lot of people, things, and frankly, running is tiring, so trying to find someone in a crowd is worse than reading “Where’s Waldo?” while tired. Have a pre-designated meeting spot – like a specific street corner, building, etc. and make sure that’s where you meet after a race. It’s far less stressful than trying to weave through a crowd to find a friend.


Tip #5 – Have Fun
There are a ton of safety tips available to you in addition to the simple things listed here. But at the end of the day, be sure you’re enjoying your run. Here are a few more running tips for you to review before you head out for your next run.

Happy National Running Day!

Around the Water Cooler

Things that are happening around the Red Cross


Bangladesh: School kids ready to save lives

When earthquakes, floods and other local hazards strike, young people are the most vulnerable to injury and death, especially because of structural instability of buildings. The American Red Cross and the Bangladesh Red Crescent work together to improve school safety for more than 20,000 students through actions like securing bookcases to walls so they don’t fall over, identifying emergency exits, and teaching first aid.

Red Cross Gives More than $1 Million to “Silent” Disasters

Every year millions of people around the globe are affected by natural disasters, conflict and health emergencies. Some of these disasters aren’t covered as heavily in the media as others, but that doesn’t mean that the Red Cross isn’t there caring for people in need. Since March of 2014, the American Red Cross has contributed more than$1 million to these “silent” disasters—helping provide shelter, clean water, cash grants, basic household items, and education on disease prevention.


Hurricane Season Has Arrived – Are You Ready?

Hurricane season has arrived and the American Red Cross wants to ensure you and your loved ones are prepared. The Atlantic Caribbean Hurricane Season runs June 1 through November 30.

Rip Currents Challenge Ocean Swimmers

Many of us are packing our bathing suits and heading to the beach for some fun in the sun. However, rip currents are posing a challenge for swimmers. The American Red Cross has some steps you can take to be safe and enjoy your trip to the shore.


Red Cross Responds to Wildfires, Tornado

The American Red Cross is helping people in Alaska and California impacted by wildfires and those affected by a tornado that touched down Monday in North Dakota.

Make Someone’s Day Lucky

Last weekend my husband, son, and dad played in a disc golf tournament at a nearby county park. My daughter and I wanted to watch them throw a few discs and hopefully cheer them on to victory, so once we wrapped up our morning activities we drove out to the park.

We had just climbed out of the car and were preparing to coat ourselves in sunscreen when a woman came running out a nearby grove of trees. In my direction – and in the general direction of all those in the parking lot – the woman shouted, “do any of you have a bandage?!”

One man completely ignored the woman’s request, while another couple began searching frantically through their bags. When the couple came up empty handed, I walked calmly to my trunk, popped it open, and pulled out my trusty American Red Cross first aid kit.

photo 2-4

As I did so, my daughter quietly asked, “you have Band-aids, right Mama? You always have Band-Aids”.

I called the woman over to my car and asked her describe the victim’s wound. As I pulled supplies – alcohol wipes to clean the wound, gauze pads to stop the bleeding, a bandage to apply once the bleeding had slowed, and a back-up bandage for later – from my first aid kit, the woman took a deep breath, smiled, and acknowledged that she “should have known to ask a mom first”. She added that I seemed more prepared than most, to which I replied, “I’m not just a mom, I’m also a Red Crosser.

The woman thanked me profusely and ran back into the trees to rejoin her friends. They must not have been too deep into the woods, because soon after she disappeared I heard her exclaim, “it was my lucky day! I found a mom who was also a Red Crosser!”

Will you be able to make someone’s day lucky? Click here to sign up for an American Red Cross CPR and First Aid class, and click here to purchase an American Red Cross first aid kit!

Memorial Day Post: Grampa’s House

I always loved going to my Grampa’s house. When I was a baby, Grampa would relieve my mom by walking me to his house every day, just the two of us. I thought it was hysterical to throw my hat as far as I could, and he loved holding on to a stroller with his granddaughter, rather than to a cane.

When I got a little older, Grampa would pile all of his grandchildren into his sky blue, ivory fringe-topped Harley Davidson golf cart, affectionately called “The Harley,” and drive us around Balboa Island. I can still feel the wind coming off the bay, hear the laughter of my cousins interrupted by the cawing of pelicans, taste the sugar rush of a pink hippo cookie from Dad’s Donuts, smell the fresh beach air, and see the toothy smile on Grampa’s face.


When my grandparents moved in with us when I was 9, going to Grampa’s side of the house was just as special. He welcomed me home every day, told jokes and stories, and helped with homework. At first I would rush to the rhythmic cling of his cane, then eventually to the electric whir of his scooter, then the metallic swish of his wheelchair, and eventually, in those last few weeks in 2004 when I was 16, to his silent bedside.

Home and family were always all that mattered to Grampa, probably because he knew he was so lucky to have them. Born months early at only 2.5 pounds in 1925, he would not have made it had his family not had the untested idea to incubate him in the oven. When his mother died when he was a toddler, and his father abandoned him and his little brother, they were raised by their grandparents, immigrants from a famine-ridden Sweden. They raised their grandchildren as patriots and let them know how lucky they were to live in America, even during the Depression.

Grampa Army2 When Grampa was 17, his cousin, who had been raised essentially as an older brother, died in WWII. When he found out, Grampa wrote the number “18” on a piece of paper, placed it in his shoe, marched down to the Army recruiting center, and answered “Yes, Sir” when asked if he was over 18.

Grampa spent two years away from home to fight for his home. The sweet and humble man that he was, we always had to rely on his accolades and reading between the lines of his stories to figure out what a true hero he was in WWII. It was not until recently that we found this video of him and his fellow soldiers liberating the Ludwidlust concentration camp, forcing the townspeople to respectfully bury the dead, and marching them through the camp so they could never deny what had happened. The Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC awarded him a Liberator’s Pin posthumously.


At age 19, after receiving the Bronze Star of Bravery, when shrapnel permanently disabled him on the battlefield, he finally came home, with the help of the Red Cross, especially the nurses. He would joke that it all worked out for the best, because he was the first boy home to Sioux City, so he got to marry Frankie, the princess of the town, my Gramma.

Grampa Gramma Wedding Announcement


I am so honored to be a part of the American Red Cross, especially the Service to the Armed Forces department. I know Grampa would be proud to see that I grew up to become a part of the very same exact organization that helped him through WWII and is still today helping service members and their families. I hope that along with his wife who loves him to this day, 3 children, 9 grandchildren, and now 5 great-grandchildren (with another on the way), my work at the Red Cross is a part of his legacy. I work in Washington, DC at the National Headquarters, a short walk from his home for the last decade: Arlington National Cemetery.


Grampa- today, on Memorial Day, I’m coming over to your house.

 Herbert Frank Marshall 1925-2004


Share your Memorial Day stories or pictures with us in the comments box, or on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram using #RedCross #MemorialDay. To find out more about the Red Cross history, visit redcross.org/history, or to learn about Service to the Armed Forces today, visit redcross.org/military.

A Quick Swimming Lesson

By: Connie Harvey, Director
American Red Cross Aquatics Centennial Program 

At the beach

If you watch people around a pool, most seem to be comfortable around the water. If you ask them about their swimming skills, most are pretty confident in their abilities.

The American Red Cross recently asked people about just that- their swimming skills. Nearly 80% of Americans said they could swim but when we went a little deeper what we learned was surprising.

Take a look at these results:

  • Of those surveyed, the vast majority of adults who think they know how to swim — when measured by Red Cross standards — really don’t.
  • In fact, less than half of the adults surveyed have basic “water competency” skills, which is defined as the ability to jump into the water over your head and surface, swim for 25 yards, find an exit from the water and actually get out.
  • And it’s not just adults; only four out of ten parents of children aged 4-17 believe their child has all five of these basic swimming skills.
  • Only 2 percent of adults plan to take swimming lessons this summer to improve their skills, and only about one in five children (20 percent) are likely to take swimming lessons.

We found some other troubling things:

  • Nearly half reported an experience where they feared they would drown, but many said they would not know what to do if someone else was in trouble.
  • Yet nearly all of those adults surveyed plan to be near water this summer; including one in three who expect to swim in a place without a lifeguard.

All of this reminds us that people should take steps now to become competent swimmers and make sure their children learn to swim. We’re asking every family to make sure that both adults and children can swim and that parents and caregivers know how to make good choices about the water and how to respond in a water emergency.

Marking a century of swimming safety education, the Red Cross is responding to this need with a national campaign to reduce the drowning rate by 50 percent in 50 cities where drowning rates or numbers of drownings are high in the next three to five years. Join in by enrolling you and your kids in Red Cross Learn-to-Swim classes. Call swimming pools in your area and ask for Red Cross training.


The Surf Report

A few fun, Red Cross related things we found on the Interwebs that we thought would be fun to share…

1) Red Cross Workers Help Save Ducklings

7News Boston WHDH-TV

2) We think our chapter in Richmond, VA is deathly afraid of children

Have a good weekend!

Wildfire Evacuation — What Would You Take?


We asked, and boy did we get an answer! In light of the multiple wildfires in Southern California and parts of the Southwest, we discovered through Facebook and Twitter what you would take if you had only five minutes to evacuate. True to form, our online community made sure their cats were a primary focus. Kids, important documents, phones, and “go bags” were also top of the list. A few Twitter users even pointed out digital storage, such as external hard drives, as their method of saving important documents and photos.

Let us know what you would take, make sure you have your plans ready, and check out what the Red Cross community said below.

You Have 5 Minutes to Evacuate…

Imagine this scenario…

You look outside your house and see this:

image courtesy of KEYT

Within two minutes, a firetruck is rolling down your street announcing a mandatory evacuation for the area and you have five minutes to get out of your house.

You have five minutes…what do you take?

Now, this can easily turn into an episode of “Supermarket Sweep” where you just grab as much as humanly possible and hope you’ll be OK…OR you can have a plan in place, practice it a few times, and KNOW you’ll be able to get what you need out of your house in five minutes.

Sadly, my area has been through this drill a LOT in the past five years, so I have this down to a science. I can get my important paperwork, extra medications, dog + supplies, and any “irreplaceables” in the car in this amount of time. But it took practice. I remember the first time I had to evacuate, I had absolutely NO IDEA where anything was or what I should even bring! Thankfully, our Red Cross Wildfire App can really help you figure out what to have ready ahead of time, and what to do if you’re ever told by authorities that you need to leave the area immediately.

Let’s walk through this (as seen through using the app on my phone):

1) As soon as you know there’s a fire in your area

WF app 2

2) Make sure you have at least these things packed


3) Then pack things that YOU and your family may need
This can include toys/items for your children, your pets food/leash, your important documents (mortgage/lease papers, ID, Passports, etc.)

4) Lastly, just get out and know where to go.
You can do this by looking at the Shelter portion of the Wildfire App. You should also tune into a local news station or check in with a local fire authority’s website or Twitter feed to learn more information.
shelter mao

Here are a few personal tips for making this 5 minutes go as smoothly as possible…
1) Have a lot of your important stuff “grouped” – for instance, I have ALL of our mortgage papers, IDs, bank info, etc. stored in one of those large file folders – it’s in a safe spot, so all I have to do is grab ONE thing and I know I have ALL of our important paperwork gathered. This alone will save you 5 minutes.

2) We store all of our dog supplies in one area, and we have a little bag with an extra leash, bone (to keep her occupied), and water bowl. All of this is stored next to a ziplock bag of extra food. Dog is officially taken care of in 10 seconds or less.

3) We had the conversation on what are the “irreplaceable” family items that we knew we’d be devastated if we lost. While not all of those can be in the same spot, having the items identified ahead of time will easily save you some time.

4) Everything else is in our “go kit” – extra food, emergency blankets, first aid kit, flashlight etc. – it’s all in one of those plastic storage bins ready to go when we need to.

Make a plan. Practice the plan. It will make a world of difference if you hear “you have five minutes to evacuate”

Spotlight on National Nurses Week

Across the United States and even across the world, American Red Cross volunteer nurses are an integral and celebrated component of Red Cross operations. National Nurses Week is a perfect time to recognize some unique nursing roles with the Red Cross.

Landstuhl nurseTake Michelle Livingston, Daphne Blask and Lauren Purtell. They all moved to Germany as military spouses, discovering upon arrival continuing their nursing careers as normal wouldn’t be an option.

“When people suggested that I start volunteering through the Red Cross at the hospital, I thought it would be a great opportunity to help serve and get the experience I needed to be hired,” said Purtell. “Never in my life would I have guessed how challenging and rewarding being a Red Cross volunteer nurse would be.”

Read their inspirational stories on redcross.org (Part 1 and Part 2).


Tina Trotta is a testament to passing the baton. She recognized her calling, recognized a role model and recognized an opportunity to turn gratitude into action. Trotta spent 20 years in sales before making a career switch to nursing. When she first started out, her Red Cross nurse assistant trainer was so inspiring that Trotta continued her education to become an RN. She now teaches a Red Cross Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) course of her own in Florida. Her unique blend of career experiences in various fields feeds into her success as an instructor, and she makes sure to tell her story to each group she teaches. Trotta explains that if the nursing piece is within their scope and their desire, she wants to encourage any student that comes through her CNA classes to keep going.

Find out how nurses contribute to the Red Cross, see Red Cross nurses in action and learn more on redcross.org.