Watch CBS News

'Drowning can actually be silent and fast:' The importance of knowing how to swim as an adult

The importance of learning to swim
The importance of learning to swim 03:32

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) - A couple of days ago, when we reported on the return of the tiki boats to the three rivers, our very own David Highfield mentioned he can't swim. 

That set me off in search of help for David and all of those who find themselves around the water. 

While I was able to find that help, I also found out that most adults can swim, but let's put an asterisk next to that fact. 

Whether in a pool or a lake, the three rivers, or even the ocean, the "ahhh" factor of water on a hot day is unrivaled. 

"People thought they were better swimmers than they actually were," explained Nicole Roschella of the American Red Cross in Pittsburgh. "Eighty-five-percent of Americans said they could swim, but then only a little over half of those people could perform the five basic skills for water competency." 

That means almost half, 44-percent to be specific, cannot accomplish those skills to save their lives while in the water. 

In order to test your confidence, here's what a U.S. Navy Diver showed us: 

  • Being able to step or jump into water that's over your head, and being able to come up to the surface while breathing in a relaxed manner. 
  • Float and tread water for one minute.
  • Being able to turn around and find an exit out of the water.
  • Swimming 25 yards to the exit out of the water. 
  • Being able to get yourself out of the water if it's a pool, being able to push yourself out without the help of the ladder. 

It's the last two that challenge casual swimmers - if you have never learned to swim you don't need to join a class for 4-year-olds. 

"The Red Cross has age-appropriate classes for all age levels," Roschella said. 

The same goes for the YMCA and the local pools, and Roschella added that it's critical for parents to learn. 

"You know, if you're an adult, if you're a parent, and you're watching your kids in the water, it's important that you yourself know how to swim to be able to help them in an emergency," she said. 

She said vigilance around water is critical and unforgiving. 

"Drowning can actually be silent and fast," she explained. "While you're looking down at that text, it could happen in that moment, someone could submerge underwater." 

The Red Cross listed three affiliated pools in the area: 

  • The recreation center at Boyce-Mayview Park
  • The Upper St. Clair Recreation Center 
  • Penn Trafford Recreation Center 

That said, most pools have swimming classes taught by Red Cross-trained lifeguards. 

Once you learn to swim, there's comfort around water and you'll never know when you might need it or when you can help save a life. 

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.