HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – Memorial Day weekend marks the unofficial start of summer and serves as the opening weekend for many public pools. As many Alabamians spend time at pools, beaches, lakes and rivers this summer it is important to stay water aware.

Almost 4,000 people die every year in unintentional drownings, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Across the country, drowning is the leading cause of accidental death for children between one and four years old.

The CDC has found that adults are also at risk. Many say that they can swim but more than half don’t have basic water competency skills.

“Most people can swim just far enough to get themselves into trouble but not far enough to swim back out of it,” said David Kalange, aquatics supervisor for Huntsville Parks & Recreation. “That’s when we get distressed swimmers, and we start having drownings.”

Signs of drowning can include:

  • Swimmer’s body in a vertical position
  • Head at or below the water’s surface and tilted back
  • Swimmer’s arms may be moving as if they’re trying to climb a ladder
  • Inability to speak

A study into the association between swimming lessons and childhood drownings showed that swim lessons reduced the risk of young children drowning by 88%.

The Red Cross has several resources for parents and caregivers. Huntsville Parks & Recreation also offers summer swim classes, including a class for adult beginners.