Come summer, we’re irresistibly drawn to water — pools, lakes, beaches and boat decks. It’s a glorious way to beat the heat, but it’s also potentially dangerous.

Drowning is the nation’s fifth-leading cause of unintentional injury death, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). On average, 10 people drown every day, two of them age 14 or younger.

Even if the victim is resuscitated, the effects of nearly drowning can be drastic. According to the Minnesota Safety Council, “Nonfatal drownings can cause brain damage that may result in long-term disabilities including memory problems, learning disabilities and permanent loss of basic functioning (e.g., a permanent vegetative state).”

There are a lot of misconceptions about drowning, safety experts warn. Knowing the facts can be a life-or-death matter for you and your family. What’s your Water Safety Wisdom level? Take this quiz and find out.

Part 1. Who’s at risk?

Q: True or false: If you don’t go swimming, you can’t drown.

A: False. “Two-thirds of the people who drown never had any intention of being in the water, according to the National Drowning Prevention Alliance.


Q: True or false: Everyone should learn to swim, even if they’re adults or don’t plan on going to the pool or beach.

A: True.


Q: Which gender drowns more often? (a) males; (b) females; (c) it’s a trick question, they drown at the same rate.

A: (a) Nearly 80 percent of the people who drown are male, according to the CDC. Some experts think males’ higher risk-taking tendencies and drinking could explain the huge disparity. Alcohol use is involved in 70 percent of deaths associated with water recreation and 20 percent of boating deaths.


Q: True or false: Children age 1-4 most often drown in home pools.

A: True.


Q: True or false: Children under 1 most often drown in home pools.

A: False. Children in this age group most often drown in bathtubs, buckets or toilets, according to the American Red Cross, which suggests using safety locks on toilets and always keeping toilet lids down and bathroom doors closed. Empty buckets immediately after use, and never leave a filled bucket or bathtub unattended.

Part 2. What can happen?

Q: Drowning can occur in less than: (a) 15 minutes; (b) four minutes; (c) three minutes; (d) one minute.

A: (d) One minute


Q: A person who’s drowning is more likely to: (a) scream for help; (b) thrash about and wave his arms; (c) both; (d) neither.

A: (d). A swimmer in distress still might be able to stay afloat, shout and attract attention. But once a person enters the stage of active drowning, all energy is diverted to the struggle to breathe. The victim can’t call out for help, and his arms press down at his sides in an instinctive attempt to keep his head above water.


Q: True or false: When supervising children or other inexperienced swimmers in or around water, stand no farther than 10 feet away.

A: False. Always keep them within arm’s reach. What’s called “touch supervision” provides an added layer of protection even when there are certified lifeguards on duty. Even stronger swimmers should always “buddy swim” because distress caused by cramps, seizures or adverse weather conditions can strike without warning.


Q: True or false: If someone is missing, you should always check the water first.

A: True. Seconds count when a person is drowning. Have someone else make the call to 911.

Part 3: What to do

Q: True or false: If someone’s struggling in the water, always swim out to help them as fast as possible.

A: False. Certified lifeguards are trained how to conduct rescues without becoming victims themselves. Follow the Red Cross’ “Reach or Throw, Don’t Go” policy to keep yourself out of danger.

If the victim is close enough, brace yourself on the pool deck, dock or shoreline and extend a pole, paddle, tree branch — even an article of clothing — to pull the victim to safety. Or throw the victim a buoyant object with a line attached, such as a ring buoy, floating cushion or even a small cooler. And lean back from the water while pulling him into safety to make sure you don’t get yanked into the water, too.

If the water is shallow — a good rule of thumb is not over your chest — you can attempt a wading rescue. Take along something to extend your reach, and keep it between you and the victim. If possible, wear a life jacket yourself.


Q: A safety-equipped pool has all but one of the following items: (a) ring buoy; (b) first-aid kit; (c) phone; (d) water wings, “noodles” or inflatables; (e) shepherd’s crook; (f) CPR instructions.

A: (d). Inflatables and toys are not substitutes for life jackets, which the Red Cross recommends young children or inexperienced swimmers wear around water. Having a phone at poolside not only makes it quicker to call for help, but it keeps adults from having to leave the pool to answer phone calls inside the house.


Q: True or false: When watching kids play in the water, it’s OK to quickly look away to check Facebook and Twitter on your cellphone.

A: False! Don’t let anything distract you. Remember, disaster can strike in seconds.

More resources

• The “Swim by American Red Cross” app is free for iPhone and Android devices. It contains safety information and quizzes, including some aimed at kids. You also can find courses and track your child’s progress through various levels of swim instruction.

• CDC:

• National Drowning Prevention Alliance: