UW Combined Fund Drive

June 5, 2024

Recreate responsibly: Summer water safety

Summer in the Pacific Northwest! Who doesn’t want to get outside and engage in our abundant recreational opportunities? From hiking, cycling, running, boating, horseback riding, to fishing and open water swimming, we have a true embarrassment of riches.

However, enjoying time outside includes being water-safe. Each year, there are approximately 4,000 drowning deaths that are both predictable and preventable. And as last year’s rescue of professional artistic swimmer Anita Alvarez demonstrates, even confident and strong swimmers can get into trouble.

It is important to note that drowning injury and mortality affects some groups disproportionately: males are at higher risk than females (both young men with delusions of invincibility and older men when alcohol is a factor), and young children at higher risk than older children. Race is a social determinant for some groups, as well: Black people, historically denied access to swimming pools and swimming lessons, are consequently less familiar with and comfortable in the water.

Be water-safe

The following water safety tips come from the American Red Cross, Water Safety USA and Families United to Prevent Drowning, who envision a world where not one more drowning fatality or near-fatality ever occurs.

Learning to swim is the #1 recommendation for water safety.

Learn to swim and teach children to swim. Why? Every day, about ten people die from unintentional drowning. Participation in formal swim lessons can reduce the likelihood of childhood drowning death by 88%.

  • At a minimum, children and adults should achieve the skills of water competency: be able to enter the water, get a breath, stay afloat, change position, swim a distance and then get out of the water safely.

Know before you go: Check the weather forecast and water conditions before you go. Cold water can be dangerous, even on warm days.

Plan and prepare: Lifeguards may not be present, so know if they’re on duty and try to swim only when they are present. Bring essential gear for boats or vessels like navigational devices and paddle floats.

Watch: Beach Safety Tips for Kids & Adults (American Red Cross)

Wear a life jacket: Always wear a properly fitted U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket when on a boat and if in a situation beyond someone’s skill level.

Build a safe and inclusive outdoors: People have different comfort levels with water. We can be safer together. When recreating with young children or in groups, designate a water watcher.

Learn how to respond: If someone else is in trouble, call 911 and get help. Don’t go in the water to help.

  • To assist others: reach for them, throw something to them, don’t go into the water after them.
  • If you are in trouble: flip, float, relax (like a starfish)

Prevent unsupervised access to water: Fence pools and spas with adequate barriers and keep a constant eye for any water dangers such as portable splash pools/slides, buckets and bathtubs.

Respect water: water can be powerful. Always tell someone your plan when headed out solo. Obey posted safety signs. Learn to read water conditions and remain alert.

Whitewater can be the most unpredictable and yet most heavily utilized waters. Learn about responsible paddling.

Take Action

Make it better: All water sources are connected, and are home to fish and other life. Help protect our waters by leaving your environment cleaner than you found it.


Consider a contribution through payroll deduction in support of a UWCFD organization working to keep our lakes, rivers and waterways safe, clean and accessible, or to one helping all kids and adults learn how to swim:

Help kids and adults learn lifesaving swimming skills

The YMCA of Greater Seattle (charity code 0337121): The Y is “America’s Swim Instructor” and the most accessible community resource to prevent drowning and encourage a lifelong enjoyment of swimming. Each year, the YMCA of Greater Seattle teaches more than 13,000 people how to swim through our group and private swim lessons. We also offer scholarships so that a family’s financial situation is not a barrier to learning to swim.

The American Red Cross (charity code 0337346): The Red Cross believes that by working together to improve water competency – which includes swimming skills, water smarts and helping others – water activities can be safer… and just as much fun.

Maintain clean waterways

Center for Environmental Law & Policy (charity code 1478540) is a statewide organization whose mission is to protect, preserve and restore Washington’s waters.

Puget Soundkeeper (charity code 315023) has a mission to protect and preserve the waters of Puget Sound.

Washington Water Trust (charity code 523588): Since 1998, Washington Water Trust has been restoring healthy and sustainable flows in our state’s rivers and streams for fish, farms, people and wildlife.

Washington Wild (charity code 315056) protects and restores wild lands and waters in Washington state through advocacy, education, and civic engagement.

American Whitewater (charity code 0330118) restores rivers dewatered by hydropower dams, eliminates water degradation, improves public land management and protects public access to rivers for responsible recreational use.